12 goals

12 months, 12 goals: halfway there


Hey guys, I'm doing it. I'm achieving my goals! I was so discouraged a couple months ago when I wasn't achieving my ethics-minded resolutions on my one month timelines. Turns out that I was taking steps to meet my goals the whole time.

Since January, I've purchased most of my clothes and accessories secondhand (thredup is awesome), handmade (Seamly.co), or fair trade (Mata Traders). I've also explored my local fair trade and consignment shops, started shopping at more mindful grocery stores, and written an article on the state of the garment industry. And just today, I spread the word about fair trade in my community as part of World Fair Trade Day. As I move into the summer months and have a bit more time on my hands, I plan to organize and purge the house of clutter, as well as paint the bookshelves in our library. It'll be a good time to think about ethical options for home goods.

I'm learning that keeping this list in my mind is helping to push me toward more sustainable habits even if they don't happen on the neat timeline I set for myself in January.

  1. Learn to sew.

  2. Shop local.

  3. Shop handmade.

  4. Donate to a microloan organization.

  5. Invest in a fair trade garment.

  6. Write an article on the state of the garment industry.

  7. Explore more fair trade food options.

  8. Start a petition that demands manufacturing transparency.

  9. Spread the word about fair trade in my community.

  10. Shop secondhand.

  11. Accumulate less.

  12. Seek out ethical home goods. 

*Items in bold are additions to my original list.

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12 months, 12 goals


Oh, goals. We make them and then life happens.

When I started making plans for this year, I assumed I'd have a certain amount of wiggle room in by budget to explore fair trade and artisan made options. But then I got hit with some major taxes and car payments that have left me with virtually nothing to my name. It's going to be ok, but I don't have any wiggle room, which means I'm basically stuck on my "Shop secondhand" goal for the foreseeable future.

It doesn't bother me at all except I feel like I'm letting you all down. I wanted to explore all the facets of the ethical clothing industry in a concise, organized manner, but the fact is that it's expensive and time consuming to buy fair trade.

Last month I made an effort to read labels and purchase fair trade food as often as possible, but I didn't fully explore local resources like I intended. It may be best to come back to this once the farmer's market season begins.

I'd like to spend April tying up loose ends and planning for the future. I did manage to locate a shop that offers sewing lessons in one month packages; I intend to take them by the end of the year because it would really help Platinum & Rust and my personal wardrobe to be able to make alterations and even sew complete garments (out of ethically sourced fabrics, of course). I also want to look into my local food pickup service and get prepped to sell at flea markets (to promote sustainable style with my shop offerings). Everything requires cash flow, so it'll have to wait. But know that I haven't given up anything. I've just postponed them for a time.

How are your goals coming along this year? How do you live ethically and promote sustainability without spending money?

Read other posts in this series here.

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12 months, 12 goals: eat fair trade food

march ethical goals

This month's goal is to replace non-fair trade food items with fair trade, organic options as often as possible. Something clicked with me at the beginning of the year and I started to find it easier to take the ethical path. It felt less like a sacrifice to avoid Old Navy or to buy fair trade chocolate over a tried and true brand. It's nice that it's becoming second nature over time.

The fair trade movement began with food, so there are more options at standard grocery stores than many people realize. And specialty stores like Whole Foods - we're fortunate to have one in Charlottesville - sell tons of ethical options, all clearly labeled.

This month, I plan to buy more fairly traded produce and continue to buy fair trade coffee, chocolate, and tea. All it takes in most cases is reading the label, but I can always research the production standards when production information is limited. I'll be relying in part on Fair Trade USA resources to narrow it down.

When I talk about fairly traded food, however, I don't just mean items with the fair trade label. Fair trade is tricky because companies normally have to initiate the certification process. If they don't, it doesn't necessarily mean they're hiding anything. There are plenty of local and domestic producers that likely follow ethical guidelines. It's all about doing proper research and asking for greater transparency.

Wish me luck and join in if you'd like. Also, if you have any suggestions or resources, let me know!

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12 months, 12 goals february wrap up

shop local

Phew! I'm a little behind on the 12 Months, 12 Goals posts.

Last month was all about shopping local to save resources and support ethical retailers in my community. Since I stopped most unnecessary spending, it was pretty easy to meet my goal on accident! I purchased products at or perused:

  • Java Java, a fair trade, organic coffee shop, for coffee and house made treats

  • Paradox Pastry, a local patisserie, for a yummy chocolate croissant

  • Low Vintage, my favorite vintage shop in town

  • Ike's Undergound, another local vintage shop

  • Trade, a local consignment store

  • Cafe Cubano, a downtown coffee shop that serves fair trade coffee

  • Aromas, a Mediterranean restaurant, for a delicious falafel wrap

And Daniel and I purchased two six packs of local cider to bring to various dinner engagements.

So, even though I failed to keep up with things here, it was a month of local love.

How did your month go? What goals were you trying to meet?

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12 months, 12 goals: shop local

shop local

Shopping locally contributes to ethical living in several ways: 1. by supporting local businesses, you contribute to your local economy and culture, 2. you reduce fossil fuel usage and waste since retail items are shipped in bulk to the store rather than to individual homes, 3. you have more opportunities to promote and support fair trade endeavors on a personal level with local business owners and customers.

Charlottesville is blessed with a number of local businesses, from fair trade cafes to greeting card shops, from eco-clothing boutiques to produce grown on local farms. Though the farmers' market is closed for the season, there are still plenty of options. Since moving here, I have found that I prefer to spend the money I earned at a local business at other local shops. I like supporting people's dreams. Local businesses are the heart of the city. They make or break its appeal.

I'll feature a few throughout the month, but to whet your appetite, why not check out my post on local vintage store, Low?

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12 months, 12 goals: shop secondhand

secondhand shopping

It dawned on me, as I flipped and flipped through endless blouses at a local Goodwill on Monday, that thrift shops will never run out of items for me to add to my closet. Sure, there are a few items (like underwear) that I'd rather not purchase at the thrift store, but really, there's a lot to be found if you take the time to look.

A few of my prized thrift finds include LL Bean Duck boots, a BCBG Max Azria Flapper-style dress, and several items in pristine condition that I wear so much I forgot I bought them on the secondhand market.

And if that's not enough, internet marketplaces and local vintage shops allow me to shop curated collections when I'm not in the mood to spend 2 hours searching through crowded racks. I buy most of my shoes secondhand on ebay; I've purchased like-new Minnetonka moccasins and several pairs of sneakers for a third of their original price. I found my favorite vintage dresses on etsy and ebay.

The marketplace is flooded with piles of discarded clothing with plenty of wear left, so why do we insist on buying new? Secondhand shopping is easier than it's ever been - we can do it from our couches - so we really have no reason not to try it.

People are often confused about the ethical value of secondhand shopping, noting that many donated goods were likely produced in sweatshops. What they aren't connecting is that the thrift market doesn't operate according to traditional supply-and-demand principles; if you buy cast-offs, you aren't participating in the traditional market at all. Instead, you're opting out; you're boycotting; you impact it only because you're avoiding it. We're nowhere near operating in a market in which demand for secondhand items exceeds supply, so we can rest assured that we do no harm (to others, at least) when we make it rain at the thrift store.

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12 months, 12 goals: shop secondhand

secondhand shopping

"...thrifting is also the moral choice in a 'fast fashion' consumer culture that strips the earth of resources and people of their dignity to meet our insatiable demand for more. It’s time that we take responsibility for our purchasing power. It’s time that we’re made aware of how our weekend hauls at the mall impact and exploit workers at the foundation of the retail chain (from my article for Relevant Magazine, Why I Buy Secondhand)."

When I published my article for Relevant online last May, I was convinced that thrifting was the absolute best alternative to fast fashion retail shopping. Thanks to thought provoking comments and conversations since then, I realize it has its downsides. For one, we can't simply stop producing new garments, because this jeopardizes the livelihoods of milllions of individuals who work in the clothing industry. In the long term, it also thwarts creativity and innovation. But I do think we could stand to downsize the industry altogether.

Those arguments aside, there's no doubt that thrift shopping is a positive endeavor. When I buy something from my local thrift, I save money, recycle, give money back to my community, and avoid increasing demand for unethically produced garments.

thrift haul

On a recent trip to Goodwill, I bought a sweater, J. Crew top, lace crop top, and two striped shirts for a total of $15.00. Had I purchased these new, I likely would have spent over $100.00. I also would have implicitly contributed to unsafe cotton farming practices, depressed factory wages, and unethical sales practices (see my post on retail theater).

Secondhand shopping is the easiest, most immediately effective way to redirect one's spending, but it's not the end all, be all of the fair trade lifestyle. I see it as the foundation of ethical spending, which is why I placed it at the beginning of my 12 Months, 12 Goals challenge.

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12 months, 12 goals

Style Wise is one year old! To celebrate, I'm rolling out a new series in which everyone can participate!

12 Months, 12 Goals is a year long challenge that breaks down ethical shopping goals into easier-to-manage, month long chunks. These challenges are emphasized during the month in which they are originally announced, but can continue throughout the year. The intent is to develop habits one-by-one that contribute to more ethical, sustainable living and to confront both unhealthy consumer habits and our broken retail system. By taking slow and thoughtful strides toward ethical and intentional living, I hope to develop lasting positive routines that benefit myself and others.

I'll announce a new challenge at the beginning of each month, then post on my progress at the start of the next month.

Goal 1: Shop secondhand.

For the month of January, my goal is to shop only secondhand. This is a fitting goal for the start of the year because it requires very little money and it's the surest way, at least in the short term, to ensure that my purchases are ethical and sustainable.

Potential goals for the following months include:

  • Learn to sew.

  • Shop local.

  • Shop handmade.

  • Donate to a microloan organization.

  • Invest in a fair trade garment.

  • Write an article on the state of the garment industry.

  • Explore more fair trade food options.

  • Start a petition that demands manufacturing transparency.

  • Spread the word about fair trade in my community.

We're better together, so let me know if you plan to get involved. Tailor your goals to your personal struggles and desires and let me know! I'd love to link up with you.

While you're at it, grab a button for your blog:

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