Style Wise | Ethical Fashion, Fair Trade, Sustainability


5 Things to Buy in To The Market's After Christmas Sale

artisan and survivor made ethical products sale from To The Market
This post is sponsored by To The Market. To The Market curates fairly made, artisan goods from preexisting co-ops that employ women who have overcome systemic and/or personal abuse, providing a sustainable distribution channel and assisting with sales forecasting, as well as providing mental health services when needed. Using pre-existing co-ops ensures that the makers have greater control over their employment and that there are adequate resources on the ground. 

I hope you had a restful, joyous, love-filled Christmas weekend and that you're still basking in the warmth of it. Christmas is traditionally celebrated for 12 days beginning on Christmas Day so you've still got plenty of time to soak it up.

I wanted to let you know about To The Market's really good After-Christmas sale, going on now. For a limited time,  a selection of products are 40% off. 

artisan and survivor made ethical products sale from To The Market

My Picks

Indigo Toiletry Case, $17.40 with discount

by Haiti Design Co-op, which employs over 150 people and offers skills training along with fair employment. This piece was produced exclusively for To The Market.

August Long Scarf, $17.40 with discount

by Sewing New Futures, which offers alternatives to systemic, intergenerational prostitution

Midi Crossbody Bag, $72.00 with discount

by Haiti Design Co-op exclusively for To The Market

Oxblood Paper Beaded Clutch, $30 with discount

by 22Stars, which offers housing, education, and medical benefits along with fair employment

Leather Tote in Caramel and Black, $150 with discount

by Haiti Design Co-op exclusively for To The Market

If you shop the sale, let me know what you end up getting! 

Shop To The Market here

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Reviews in Review: 2017 Edition

reviews in review 2017 edition
Some of you have asked if I would revisit some of my reviews to give you an idea of how I use (or if I still use) the things I've talked about on this blog.

That is a GREAT idea, because it helps me assess my own commitment to sustainability. I've decided to share several items that I have continued to use long after the review went live. I didn't list all items, because that would simply take too long. Instead, I'm featuring things that have proven to be real staples in my wardrobe.

This one will be extra long, as it's the first of its kind, but I will try to remember to do this once a year. (Also, sorry for the lack of updated photos. That would take WAY too long.)

If it's listed below, it means I use or wear it all the time and feel that it truly encapsulates my style and fits into my current wardrobe.

Nomads Tunic
Eshakti Dress

Greenheart Shop Crossbody
Synergy Organic Clothing Beatrice Dress
Hands Producing Hope Shalom Necklace

United by Blue Avalon Tank
ABLE Tigist Crossbody
OESH Sandals
Abrazo Style Dress
Ash & Rose Essentials

Amalou Felted Bag
Sharon Z Silver Spear Earrings
Ember & Aura Moon Phases Necklace
Smockwalker Vintage Romper
Mawu Lolo Sandals
Soul Flower Leggings
Love Justly Kimono Jacket

*For 2017, I only included items I've already gotten a lot of use out of. Other items may make the cut in next year's review post after I've had more months to use them. 


This exercise has shown me that I tend to be very confident about my taste in accessories and bags and a little less so with clothing. Still, over the last two years especially, I've gotten much better at selecting things that I know I'll continue to use. I also have quite a few thrifted items I've been wearing for 2+ years.

Let me know if you have questions about specific items I've reviewed that aren't listed here. You can peruse the Personal Style category to find more.

Year in Review: Reader Survey Results + Blog Goals

Blog Goals and Reader Survey Results 2017
The Package Free Shop in New York, taken on my July visit
Hey! Remember when I asked you all to take my annual Reader Survey?

Sorry for never updating you on the results of that. Know that I've been referring to your short answers regularly as I plan posts. I'll get into the details of that further down.

Reader Survey Results

The Basics:

Unsurprisingly, your favorite post categories are Personal Style, Essays, and Resources. 

Those happen to be my favorite categories, too, though maybe not in that order. I hope to use this info to format my Collaboration structure going into next year. While you all like Brand Spotlights (45.6%), they're not quite the hit that Resource Lists are, so I'm going to try to find creative ways to work with companies through formats that offer greater value for you.
To my utter delight, most of you prefer to communicate with me directly through my blog rather than on social media platforms. 

I've been feeling meh about Instagram for awhile now, so it's helpful to know that it's not as important as it seems. I'm going to continue to prioritize this space over Instagram, as I think it's more conducive to longer conversations and maintaining good mental and emotional health (for me, anyway).

Other Fun Facts:

  • Most of you are not interested in financial reports. 
  • 67% of readers who responded found me through other bloggers or blog networks. That's the power of networking and #collaborationovercompetition. 
  • 43% of you have been reading StyleWise for less than 6 months!

Your Budgets:

  • 60% of respondents expect to spend $51-100 on an article of ethical clothing.
  • 68% expect to spend $26-100 for new, ethical jewelry.
  • About 1/3 of respondents expect to spend $101-150 on new, ethical shoes, with 50% of others falling into the categories directly above and below that range.

Notable Short Answers:

(I've added links to posts I published in response to your suggestions and bolded other things that are done)
  • This is just personal preference but it might be worth putting read mores into your posts as that would make it easier to scroll back through your blog :) (Done)
  • Features on etsy shops would be great as sometimes the sheer number of choices is overwhelming. (See a post here)
  • Your opinions about women's issues. | Feminism! (See a post here)
  • I like the posts where you bring your Christianity in conversation with these sustainable and fair trade issues. I think those posts are what keep me here. What differentiates you from other bloggers, to me, is that your posts feel like they are searching and working through large questions. I admire that greatly. (See a post here)
  • Ethical materials/textiles, ethical give and take (I love when you talk about trying to be balanced, since there are many 'ethical' issues to consider, and not all brands check all the boxes) (See a post on textiles here. See a post on trying to be balanced here.)
  • More essays in general. Your strength is in your writing and I enjoy your longer essays on ethical living the most. (Thank you!)
  • How clothes maintain/wear over time, revisiting past purchases to review how you're liking them. | year-later follow ups on how you like that clothes you've featured (Coming soon)
  • My favorite post was the one on MLMs. I wish I were more eloquent to explain why. Maybe because it was an article that worded my existing opinion, so I just nodded to myself, agreeing with you as I read on.
  • Plus-size fair-trade fashion! (See a post here. I'm trying to offer more resources, but it can be hard to find plus size, ethical fashion! I am now listing size ranges on Shopping Guides, though)
  • Fashion for 50+ women

Phew! That was more thorough than intended. Thanks for continuing to read. 
Blog Goals and Reader Survey Results 2017

My main blog goals for 2018 are:

1. Continue to listen to readers and take requests.
(Comment or email me at with your suggestions)

2. Collaborate with brands in the most useful ways.

3. Write candidly. Take risks.

4. Prioritize goods for everyday people and everyday use.

5. Feature more upcycled and secondhand goods.

6. Have fun and don't sweat the small stuff
(Get off of Instagram!)

Donations Results:

This year, I made $6,436 after expenses, so I donated $250 each to the ACLU and The Xerces Society, as promised.

I think that's about all I can reasonably fit in one post. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions!

Year In Review: What I Achieved in 2017

2017 has been one heck of a year...
  • The Women's March, Trump, and neo-Nazis in my tiny town.
  • Health dilemmas and panic attacks. 
  • Getting a tattoo!
  • Traveling to Florida to see my friends and New York to meet Ethical Writers & Creatives members.
  • Joining a women's ensemble and singing in a beautiful wedding. 
  • Working with lots of cool brands.
  • Going full time at work.
  • Quiet moments and coffee dates with friends.
  • Celebrating 7 years of marriage.
  • Turning 29.

This year has been hard, but it's helped me understand that you can find a groundedness deep inside yourself when everything around you is falling apart. I feel better in my own skin - maybe more realistic - and I'm starting to live more unapologetically. It's been a growing year, and I am thankful for that. 

Before I make new resolutions, I want to go back over 2017's Goals with you all and let you know where I am.


Small Ones
Rekindle my love for creative movement.

While I didn't start up dance classes, I did join a women's vocal ensemble, and that's been really lovely. I've made new friends, gained a ton of confidence in my vocal ability, and found a refuge in the form of weekly rehearsals.

Take photography more seriously.

I did ok on this! I remembered to bring my camera with me more often, which is why I decided to buy a new (refurbished) one. My old Canon Rebel XS was just too clunky. I upgraded to a gently used Fuji XT10 Mirrorless and it's been very helpful for both blog photography (the portrait settings are really helpful when you're using a remote) and lifestyle/portraits. I was also commissioned to do two portrait sessions.

Give up coffee, at least for awhile.

I tried this for a few months, but ultimately went back to having about 10 ounces of coffee in the mornings. Still an overall reduction in caffeine.

Eat all vegetarian except for on special occasions.

This failed, because my nutrition got way off balance and I became chronically ill at the beginning of the year. I still eat vegetarian at home and for lunches, but I will eat meat on occasion. This is a small step forward that is meaningful for me, and I learned a lot about animal ethics and my own personal needs through the experiment.

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

This one was a big success for me! I was able to make about $500 a month between blogging and freelance work this year, which meant I was able to build my savings account for the first time in years! Becoming more confident as a freelancer also helped me leverage a move to full time at work.

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

Drumroll please...So, I'm in the beginning processes of becoming a priest/pastor in the Episcopal church. Things are very early stage and I will be exploring my sense of calling over the next year or so before moving onto the next step, but it feels good to be making moves toward something I've been feeling called to for years and years.

P.S. I also fulfilled two resolutions from 2014: get a tattoo and publish an article (I've published several articles since then, but this one was really important to me)
A lot of life happened this year, and some of the goals I made no longer felt important as time went on. But I'm satisfied with where I am professionally and, if I try to live one day at a time, I'm fine on a personal level, too.

I'll share my new year's Blogging Goals tomorrow!

Year in Review: Top 10 Blog Posts of 2017

top ten ethical blog posts of 2017
Here they are: 2017's best performing blog posts according to Google Analytics. 

It's always good to look at this kind of data, because I think it indicates what people "need" when it comes to ethical fashion resources. I work hard on ethical brand roundup posts, so I'm happy to see those performing well. And, of course, my essays are really my babies, so proud to see a few of those here, too.

I'm surprised that my UNDP collaboration, I Was a Climate Change Denier, wasn't listed, though.


1. 6 Ethical Brands That Are Better Than Free People

2. Back to Basics: An Ethical Capsule Wardrobe

3. 5 Ethical Fashion Brands That Are Better Than Forever 21

4. 12 Ethical Alternatives to ModCloth

5. Why I Quit Being an Ethical Purist

6. 10 Ethical & Slow Living Bloggers You Need to Follow

7. 5 Misconceptions About Conscious Consumers

8. 13 Ethical Bras That Put Everyday Comfort First

9. Everlane Wide Leg Crop Pant Review

10. Let's Talk About the 'A' Word

top ten ethical blog posts of 2017

The Moral Wardrobe: Far Out Sleeves & Perfect Ethical Booties

Soul Flower tunic review - hippie and boho ethical fashion Soul Flower tunic review - hippie and boho ethical fashion Fortress of Inca Briana booties review Soul Flower tunic review - hippie and boho ethical fashion Ethical Details: Tunic - c/o Soul Flower; Jeans - #30wears; Boots - Fortress of Inca 

Over the last several years of trying to shop more ethically, I feel like I've done a great job of finding high quality basics that serve as building blocks for the rest of my wardrobe (thanks to Everlane, Po-zu, and thrifted finds). But I've also lost a lot of the zest and creativity that used to define my personal style.

I was immediately taken with this patterned tunic from Soul Flower because it spoke to my desire to rediscover some of the fun without compromising on ethics or comfort. Since I have an ongoing relationship with the Soul Flower team, they graciously offered to send me one. Exaggerated bell sleeves and a low cut back make this piece really special, but the soft cotton knit fabric and modest-cut front make it wearable in almost any context. So far, I've worn it to church and Thanksgiving dinner, but I plan to bring it down with me to Florida this week to get even more use out of it. (For reference, my measurements are 34-28-39 and I got a size Medium)

In the new year, one of my fashion goals is to continue seeking out fun things that make my wardrobe me. I intend to rely mostly on secondhand options, but it's good to know there are companies making cool stuff at reasonable price points.

I also recently purchased the Briana Boots from Fortress of Inca (Fortress of Inca provided a discount in exchange for blog coverage). I've set aside a bit of my work bonus money for investment buys because I realize that my income situation may be stretched over the next few years (more on that later this week) and it makes sense to stock up on timeless, high quality, work-appropriate things while I can. These were immensely comfortable right out of the box and the low heel is quite walkable. Liv at Simply Liv & Co reviewed a pair of Fortress of Inca boots a few months ago and said the same thing, so I trust that the whole brand is pretty spot-on when it comes to quality and comfort. (For reference, I got a 38, which is their size 8, and the fit is true to size)

All that to say that I'm starting to have fun and find clarity when it comes to what works for me and I'm excited to move into next year with a clear head. Ethical fashion is broad enough for most tastes, it just takes awhile to find what you're looking for.

All I Want for Christmas

ethical christmas wishlist
Contains affiliate links

My Christmas list is short and sweet this year. While I enjoy giving, I usually prefer to choose my own gifts. I would be perfectly content with this little stash of ethical goods and a trip to Richmond to see The Nutcracker.

A fun fact about me: I am fairly obsessed with ballet and started watching a filmed version of The Nutcracker starring Macaulay Culkin as a young child. It was one of my favorite movies, along with Anne of Green Gables and Pollyanna. You can rent it on Amazon!

Tickets to The Nutcracker.

This shirt from Tonle.

Perfume from By Rosie Jane.

Earrings from 31 Bits.

15 Money Saving Tips to Support Your Ethical Fashion Habit

15 money saving tips to support ethical fashion shopping
Five years into this ethical fashion journey, I still find that the most difficult barrier to buying from more ethical companies is price.

Firstly, we've been conditioned into buying things in high quantities at low prices, so it's hard to change our mindset. Pair that with high inflation and stagnant wages and it feels almost impossible - and, in fact, may be impossible - to inch up our cost-per-item from $20 to $100. Then there's a third concern - for me at least - that some ethical companies actually charge customers an inflated price just because they can.

When I first started out, I worked part time at a coffee shop making something like $17,000 a year, so I simply couldn't afford artisan products. I relied heavily on thrifting and thoughtfulness to get by. And that's ok!

But thanks to some recent job changes (like moving to full time) and freelance income, this year I've been able to save up for higher quality goods. But even that takes a lot of time and effort to get right, because I don't want to throw down two days' wages on something that isn't precisely what I want or need. I've made some costly mistakes.

The point is, it's difficult to be an ethical consumer when you don't have a lot of disposable income, and we can't blame ourselves for personal financial situations that are influenced and impacted by politics and capitalism. The good thing is that there are many ways to be thoughtful and intentional in the way that we choose to shop, and middle income folks may have an advantage because we really have to think hard about what we buy.

If buying from ethical and independent companies feels unattainable to you, but you're in a lower-middle class bracket like I am, try these money saving tips to save just a little more for your ethical wishlist...

1. Cut your own bangs.

My tips: Pin your hair back on each side of your head, make sure to form a subtle arc where your bangs touch your regular-length hair line, then use a fine tooth comb to visualize the line where you'd like to cut. Invest in a pair of sheering scissors and snip from the center, moving out in each direction until you've completed the first trim. Correct discrepancies as needed.

2. Dye your own hair.

Try using eco-friendly and healthy henna instead of chemical dyes. Read my tips here.
15 money saving tips to support ethical fashion shopping
3. Make coffee at home.

Create a morning ritual. I prefer using a French Press or a Pour Over because it's slower and more intentional (and the coffee tastes much better). Also, consider investing in a coffee grinder and buying whole beans. Making good coffee will help you resist the temptation to buy it elsewhere.

4. Buy used books or visit your local library.

Better World Books, local used book shops, and the library are great, low cost ways to get your reading fix. I buy almost all of my books at the thrift shop where I work!

5. Get a digital antenna instead of buying cable.

Make a one-time investment in a digital antenna and get access to lots of local channels, including network TV.

6. Consign or sell your old clothes.

Sell off your high quality goods at the beginning of each season so you can invest in essentials you really need. Get my reselling tips here.

7. Carpool.

Save money on gas by seeking out carpools to work, events, and religious services.

8. Look for household items and appliances at thrift shops.

Household appliances are things people neglect to look for at thrift shops, but they're readily available. From air poppers to coffee grinders to French Presses, you can find gently used, everyday tools secondhand.

9. Buy used tech.

Reduce demand for sweatshop goods and save hundreds of dollars by buying iPhones, cameras, computers, and more secondhand on sites like Newegg and B&H Photo.
15 money saving tips to support ethical fashion shopping
10. Do your nails at home.

Clip, buff, and paint your nails at home. You'll get better with practice!

11. Wear less makeup and opt for powder over cream.

I know this an intrusive ask, but I've saved a lot of money by foregoing products like CC Cream, Mascara, and Eye Shadow. I also benefit by using powder foundation and blush, which lasts a lot longer in terms of both usage and shelf life.

12. Buy all-purpose lotion.

Instead of splurging on face cream, moisturizer, body lotion, and more, buy a big bulk pump bottle of all-purpose lotion for your daily needs and save the specialty items for seasonal dryness. I recommend Cetaphil for bulk lotion and face wash.

13. Consider subscription boxes for gifts and decor.

If you need to stock up on ethical gifts, consider buying a subscription box from GlobeIn or CauseBox and breaking up the contents to give to friends and family.

14. Buy clothes during off season.

Wait until mid-year and end-of-year to buy high quality, ethical goods at a discounted rate. Delayed gratification is also a good habit to get into. Look out for my seasonal sales roundups for discount codes.

15. Prepare lunches and other meals in bulk.

Make a simple meal like Red Beans and Rice or Lentil Shepherd's Pie at the beginning of the week and portion it out for the next few days. You'll save a lot of money and time. See my Pinterest Recipe Board for vegan and vegetarian suggestions.

Bonus: Go out to eat when there are Happy Hour Deals and take advantage of customer loyalty programs.
I never want to trivialize financial insecurity. And I don't mean to suggest that a few lifestyle changes will make your ethical goals suddenly attainable. But it's always worth it to aim for the kind of thriftiness that does no harm instead of relying heavily on cheap, sweatshop goods.

If these tips are helpful, I'm glad! If they're not, no worries. The important thing is to be kind to yourself and others as you move forward on this ethical journey.

15 money saving tips to support ethical fashion

What Does Personal Fitness Have to Do With Leading an Ethical Lifestyle?

personal fitness and an ethical lifestyle - Allison Lambert
This post was written by Allison Lambert of The Fit Tutor.

In a world bombarding us with bikini-body fitness plans, beach-ready diets, and supplements to help us drop 20 pounds by next week, it can be hard to remember why health and wellness matter beyond just our looks or our jeans size. Of course, being in good health is beneficial to you: it improves your quality of life and longevity. But even in our individualistic world, we are connected and codependent. We need to learn to think of our health beyond just looking or feeling good. If you're healthy and able, it directly impacts those around you, as well as those across the globe that you may never meet.

I firmly believe that there is no one like you on this planet. No one else has your experiences, your genes, your point of view - and you have an opportunity to impact the world in a way no one else can. 

I believe it's our moral obligation to take good care of ourselves and prioritize our health, and I believe this lays the foundation for living an ethical lifestyle. If we are not able to run our lane in this race, then who will?

Health and Wellness Defined

Before we jump into this, let's set the record straight; I'm talking about lifestyle-related illnesses that are costing businesses billions in lost productivity and sick days. These same preventable diseases are contributing to the rising cost of health care, insurance premiums, and are costing our nation trillions.

Accidents happen. Disease can strike out of nowhere. You can be perfectly healthy and have that taken away from you by no fault of your own. We're not talking about that, and don't feel discouraged or ashamed if you aren't healthy right now. We're addressing what we can prevent by prioritizing health and wellness in our lives. We can't control or prevent everything, but research shows our efforts will make a big difference. First thing's first, here's how you can improve your health:

Simple Ways to Promote a Healthier Lifestyle

I'm sure you've seen hundreds of conflicting and confusing messages out there, so here's the basics of taking good care of yourself:

Eating Healthier
  • more real food, less processed
  • cut back on the sugar
  • work to reduce overeating
Exercising and Moving More
  • move towards 75 minutes rigorous or 150 moderate intensity minutes per week
  • fit what you can in your schedule
Stress Management
  • develop healthy ways to reduce and deal with stressors in your life

Just like learning how to create ethical buying habits, health and wellness is a journey. You start where you are, because where else would you start? If you want to go paleo and start out with a sugar fast and half marathon, you're more than welcome to. Often in our busy schedules, it's important to find where we can carve out time for rest and exercise, and to slowly shift our diets to include more whole foods and less processed.

One of the best parts is, as you embark on this journey a whole world opens up before you to make even more of an impact! If you're not already thinking about what you're eating or where it comes from, this an important and helpful way to expand your influence and live with integrity. Here's some of the hot food and exercise ethical issues plaguing or society right now.
personal fitness and an ethical lifestyle - Allison Lambert

How Health and Wellness Contribute to Living an Ethical Lifestyle

Now that we understand how important our individual health is to others, and that we should move past considering food for emotional comfort, pleasure, and as a means to get flat abs, let's talk about the ethical considerations behind our food choices and exercise habits!

It's an honor, and often a privilege, to get to vote with your dollars. Not everyone has this opportunity, so if you have the choice, consider yourself lucky and make it count as much as possible. Don't worry, there are plenty of options for a variety of budgets, and you don't have to be rich to make a difference.

I'm sure you're familiar with some of these issues, and this is by no means exhaustive. I encourage you to pick one that seems doable right now, and run with it! Each one of these could be their own book, so we're barely scratching the surface here. And, just in case, please don't feel overwhelmed. No matter where you find yourself your health and wellness or ethical living journey, there's always room for growth. Start where you can, and move forward!

Environmental Concerns

Many efforts can improve your health as well as the environment. I always say that your first job is to find out how to take better care of yourself, and then you can work on how it affects others and the environment. Here are some environmental concerns you can consider:


Farming and Fishing
  • Are you able to support the local economy, sustainability of the food system, and local farmers by purchasing locally made products and grown produce? 
    • Local CSA's might even deliver to your door or give discounts on "ugly" produce that would be rejected by supermarkets
  • Can you purchase animal products where antibiotics were not routinely administered, since the runoff is leading to an increase in the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria?
  • Is it possible to choose pesticide-free or organically grown crops due to environmental concerns of pesticides and the possible health effects on consumers and farmers (and some forced laborers)?
  • Are you able to consume less fish, due to the overfishing of our oceans, or choose mainly sustainably raised and caught fish?
  • Is it ethical to consume animals or animal products, when considering the absence of sustainability in farming and the treatment of the animals?
Food Waste
  • Are you able to start composting your food waste?
  • Are you willing to eat more mindfully so you can avoid overeating and creating unnecessary waste?
  • Are you willing to eat more real foods and less processed, packaged foods?
  • Is it an option to buy animal products such as meat and dairy from local farms, or do research behind the farm to ensure the environment was considered and sustainability was a goal?


  • Can you decrease the carbon footprint of your workout by exercising with minimal equipment, at home, or outside?
    • Even things like bringing a reusable towel to the gym and using the treadmill on incline can help!
  • Are you able to buy workout clothes and gear from companies who use sustainable materials and practices?
    • Buying second hand is an easy way to do this!
  • Is it an option to decrease emissions by incorporating exercise into your daily life, like walking to the store or riding your bike more?
    • or choose a gym or workout classes near your home, or take public transportation

Human Rights and other Ethical concerns

  • Are you able to find companies who sustainably make workout clothing and gear, and pay their workers fair wages?
  • Are you able to buy animal products such as meat and dairy from farms that ensure the animals were raised humanely, given plenty of space and proper food?
  • Is it possible for you to learn what different eco, humane, and sustainability labels mean and buy according to your principles?
  • Would you be able to purchase fair trade items from food categories that are known for slavery, child labor, and trafficking?
    • coffee, chocolate, imported fruit, imported fish, cane sugar, palm oil, etc

What have you already built into your shopping or daily habits? What is one that seems doable? Just doing a simple online search will lead you to helpful information to get you started or help you move forward in this journey.

You Matter, and So Do Your Choices

Changing habits can feel overwhelming at times, but don't underestimate the impact of your health on you and others. Who will fight for those without voices if you aren't healthy and able to? There are things that only you can do. We all need you to be you, and being healthy, energetic, and managing your stress is absolutely crucial.

I hope you are thinking of ways to add healthy habits into your life. Start where you can, maybe add some more veggies or exercise into your day. If you feel overwhelmed or don't know where to start, how to eat right, or how to exercise, then consider reaching out to a fit coach like me. I love helping make health and wellness easier and attainable, so you can focus on the things you care about. Once you find some things that work for you, consider the ethical and environmental impact of your choices, and try to make ones that vote for a world you want to live in.

Allison coaches at The Fit Tutor, an online fitness platform that requires only a pair of dumbbells to get you in great shape! In January, we're launching a 6 Week Sculpt Program, and a membership is as little as $11.99/mo. With your membership, you'll have several workout programs to choose from, accountability, as well as a Nutrition Course to go through to learn how to eat right for your body. Make 2018 the year of health with this easy to use, affordable program. Contact Allison with any questions.

Photo Credit: Blubel on Unsplash

Conscious Capitalism is a Lie: How It Poisons Missions, Foreign Aid, and Fair Trade

conscious capitalism is a lie - fair trade, foreign aid, and missions

Missions, Aid, and Colonization

I recently finished reading Dangerous Territory, a spiritual memoir about Amy Peterson's experience as a short-lived missionary in a closed country in Southeast Asia. I read it hoping to glean some good information about cross-cultural communication and the dangers of Western missionary models and related forms of "development" (read this post for more on that).

As a former Evangelical, I am still trying to come to terms with the ways my religious and cultural upbringing impacted my views on poverty, salvation, and purpose, and it was both helpful and re-traumatizing to read a story that at times felt quite similar to my own.

There were several thoughts that hit me right in the gut, but particularly these two pieces:

The way we evaluate our success as missionaries in the corporation model can be highly consumeristic. The gospel is a product we sell, and we chart our sales effectiveness and use it to ask donors for more support. But if we believe growth in numbers is the sole measure of our health, we have lost our way: humans were not created to be efficient organisms, and God has always been more interested in our proximity than in our production (p. 188).

The Protestant missionary movement did little to improve the associations [of mission work with political colonization]. While Catholic missions had been inextricably bound to political expansion, American Protestant missions were born entwined with corporate-style capitalism. The first missionary boards were structured after secular trading societies, and their values were efficiency, production, and numbers-based assessments (p. 234).

Take out the words missions and missionary and replace them with "ethical advocates,"  "fair trade brands," "foreign aid," and other related terms and the words still ring true. Western missions and development models ARE inextricably linked to cultural and political colonization.

They are built upon a capitalist framework where exploitation is not an indicator of something gone awry, but rather of the system functioning as it's intended to.

Think about it: the reason why countries like the United States and Great Britain appear to be thriving is that they've already completed the cycle of Industrial Revolution countries like Bangladesh and Cambodia are just now undergoing. If you consider the very long game - think 150-200 years - these countries' production systems are likely to stabilize and workers will gain more rights and access to resources; this is happening in China right now. But all that means is that the invisible hand has found another, poorer country to strangle.

What This Means:
It's therefore counterproductive to use capitalism as the platform of sustainable development, and yet hundreds of social enterprises insist that they're going to use capitalism as a force for good. I would argue that this is impossible, because capitalism distorts our understanding of what "good" actually is - and what it means to be generous - by emphasizing individualism.

Collectivism vs. Individualism

Christianity Today's cover story this month, Blessed Are The Handouts, discusses some of the sociological research around foreign aid. The article starts out by describing a behavioral study in which both Americans and people from an "impoverished" country in Africa (it's only letting me see the preview now or I would give more detail!) were given money to use as they pleased. Some had to do a minor job to "earn" the money and others were given it with no strings attached. American participants, particularly when they earned the money, were far less likely to give it away to others than international participants, who shared freely whether they earned or simply received the money. The author surmises that this may have something to do with the America's individualistic culture and celebration of earning as a virtue.

The gist of the piece is that, while giving cash to low income people in the US isn't always guaranteed to help people get a long term leg-up, giving cash to people in collectivist cultures is actually far more effective than offering other types of aid.

What This Means:
Instead of buying goats, building wells, and starting companies abroad (particularly when we're creating new industries instead of supporting preexisting ones), we could actually just give cash to people who need it, and watch them use their own agency to improve their lives on their own terms.

Evangelizing Capitalism

If we have built our charity and social development models on a a paternalistic, capitalist framework, we are inadvertently spreading the disease of capitalism and cultural individualism to every country we do business with.

And if this is true, it means that even fair trade models are at risk of destabilizing countries, putting infrastructure at risk, and even changing beneficial collectivist cultures to see profit-minded individualism as a virtue.

As a Christian, I am deeply concerned with cultures that raise up individualism as virtuous. 

As I write this, Shark Tank is humming away in the background (I can hardly stand to watch it anymore, but you've gotta admit it's an entertaining show). We massively overvalue boot-strapping entrepreneurs, and Millennials in particular seem fixated with the disrupters and hustlers of our own generation. Forging our own path is as American as apple pie, but is that really what we want our lives to look like? We make everyone a competitor, we move away from family and community networks, and we sacrifice so much in the name of profit or fame or usefulness.

What This Means:
In the Capitalist model, we are only valued for our labor. Our worth is linked to our productivity. We must earn money, hoard it, get a nice write-up in Forbes if we're lucky. It forces us to objectify ourselves and others, and it tricks us into believing the only way to change the world is through market manipulation. Every interaction becomes transactional. Purchasing becomes patriotic, heroic, even saintly.
American Individualism and Capitalism critique

More Than Products and Producers

In Dangerous Territory, Peterson asks herself this: 

What if God didn't want me to be useful?...Was I willing to be useless for God?

Who told us that we're supposed to be productive? Who told us that we're intended to proselytize capitalism to the masses and turn every person into a consumer?

One problem with contemporary American Evangelicalism is that its fixation on the self - on individual productivity - has led it down the dark, dangerous path of willful ignorance: of turning away neighbors and ridiculing the orphan and seeing every person as a victim of their unique choices and nothing else. "Systemic" doesn't exist in this worldview. When all faith practice is personal and Jesus has an inspired story just for you, it only takes one step to become a callous, stoic political actor. No one else matters - leave their stories to God.

What's happening in our country right now is proof positive that individualism is a poison that both influences and is influenced by the capitalist framework we're all swimming (and probably drowning) in. I don't want cultural models that honor community, sharing, and co-dependence to be snuffed out by our cultural and religious missions work (you don't have to be religious to be an evangelist for something). Lord knows that American individualism has already done enough to create and exacerbate income inequality and gross human rights violations in our own country.

Global capitalism has ruined everything. And what I'm really saying is: we've ruined everything. 

Until we - you and I right here - admit that, we are at risk of further screwing over ourselves and others.

What To Do?
I don't know what the answer is right now. Certainly people who work in sweatshops and mines and brothels need to justice to be served. I do believe in the virtue of equity. And if we can't (on a pragmatic level) overhaul capitalism, it makes sense to tweak it to serve people just a little bit better.

With increasing frequency, though, I don't know who to support or what to promote, and that freaks me out. My identity and livelihood as of late is dependent on believing that small consumer choices make a difference.

But the fuller truth is that things aren't so clear. I just know that I'm sick of the system, of that invisible hand placing its death grip over my mouth and the mouths of others who try to speak out, who try to ask for something that extends far beyond "conscious capitalism" and seek to understand what it looks like to build a culture of flourishing for all.

I don't want to keep talking about the marketplace all the time.

But when the market's the only thing that matters, critiquing it becomes a radical act.

Related Reading:
Where Millennials Come From

conscious capitalism is a lie

First Photo by Christine Roy. Second Photo by Christin Hume | on Unsplash

Inside an Ethical Wardrobe: Fall/Winter 2017

an ethical capsule wardrobe fall winter 2017 2018
My Fall/Winter wardrobe is pretty formulaic. Put on a soft cotton tee, layer up with a wool or cashmere sweater, add some dark wash jeans, then throw on a coat and boots. I am definitely a boot person, so I'm quite content with a simple outfit if it means I get to wear a cool pair of boots with it. 

With the exception of an Everlane Puffer Coat, a scarf, a kimono jacket, and Oliberte Chelsea boots, items have been in my wardrobe for at least a few months. Most are carry-overs from the last several years. Winter is just an easier season for getting dressed, I think, because the priority is being warm. As long as you have good coats and footwear, you're basically set.

In lieu of taking photos of all of my possessions, I decided to make a graphic this time around. Items are in order from left to right, top to bottom, and things that aren't shown are marked below. Let me know if you have any questions. This list contains a few affiliate links.

My Fall/Winter Wardrobe

Layering Tees: 

Everlane V-neck
Everlane Striped Tee
Everlane U-neck
Krochet Kids Grace Striped Organic Tee
Krochet Kids Naomi Organic Cotton Tee
Not shown: Thrifted Long Sleeve Tees (similar)


Everlane Cashmere
Thrifted Eileen Fisher Alpaca Sweater (similar)
Everlane Wool-Cashmere Cardigan
Not shown: Thrifted Cashmere Cardigan (similar)

Kimono Jackets:

Hackwith Design House Easy Kimono (in Auburn - waiting to purchase until late December)
Love Justly Kimono Jacket


LL Bean (not ethical, but they fit and have a lifetime warranty)


Thrifted Toggle Coat (similar)
Thrifted Long Army Green Coat (similar)
Everlane Swing Trench
Everlane Long Puffer Jacket


Everlane Cashmere Scarf


Oliberte Zulira Boots
Po-Zu Alma L Boots
All Birds Wool Runners
Thrifted LL Bean Snow Boots (similar)
Not shown: Thrifted Sam Edelman Petty Boots (similar)
Not shown: Faux Leather Combat Boots (similar)

an ethical capsule wardrobe fall winter 2017 2018

Gift Guide: For the Accessories Fiend | Statement Bags & Jewelry

Ethical Gift Guide - artisan made accessories
This post was co-sponsored by some of the brands listed below and contains a few affiliate links. All selections and recommendations are my own.

For the woman who has her wardrobe game sorted out, but likes to add accessories that are sure conversation starters, all the more so because they're ethically produced. 

This is my outfit strategy: simple, timeless clothing paired with woven bags and handmade jewelry. You get to make a statement without shouting it from the rooftops.

Ethical Gift Guide - artisan made accessories

I've organized this list from low to high price points. Left to right, top to bottom.

1. Dhaka Multipurpose Case, Haushala, $20.00

A versatile piece suitable for carrying your tablet, pens, notebook. Learn more about Haushala here.

2. Black and Gold Earrings, Sela Designs, $24.00

Handmade in the USA with eco-friendly Tagua nuts and 100% of proceeds donated to charity. I have these and I love that they're lightweight and easy to wear. See them worn here.

3. Isiyinga Circle Necklace, Thanda Zulu, $30.00

Made by fairly paid artisans in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, this piece stood out to me because of the tight beadwork and structure. I picture wearing it with a simple u-neck shirt and high waist jeans. It would also pair well with a turtleneck sweater.

4. Zig-Zag Clutch, Zuri Collection, $40.00

Made fairly from wool in Ayacucho Peru in the Northern Andes. I love the pom-poms. And it has a hot pink lining!

5. Ela Bucket Bag, Bloom & Give, $50.00

Handmade by fairly paid artisans in India with 50% of proceeds benefiting education programs, this bag is a work of art. The color and shape is modern, but it uses traditional textile techniques, which make it more timeless.

6. Woven Cotton Crossbody, Purse & Clutch, $99.00

Botanically dyed, hand spun cotton with a leather strap. Made fairly in Ethiopia. The perfect size for a planner, wallet, and phone (my daily essentials).

7. Ortus Opal Ring, Valley Rose Studio, $100.00

A delicate piece with big impact, I would wear this every day to add some symmetry to my wedding rings.

8. Silver Spear Earrings, Sharon Z, $120.00

The quintessential piece for the modern woman, these exude both strength and sensitivity. I have these earrings and never fail to get compliments whenever I wear them (which is often). Made with recycled sterling silver. *Get free shipping with coupon code, STYLEWISEFREESHIPPING

Whether you're looking to spend a little or a lot on loved ones this season, it's available on the ethical market.

If you're looking for anything specific, let me know in the comments and I'll try to help you find it.