sustainability

Conscious Beyond Clothing: Switch Your Search Engine to Plant Trees this Holiday Season

Ecosia Social good search engine - plant trees with every search
I was compensated for my time and research writing and marketing this post by Ecosia.

I have a confession to make: I'm an extreme Googler.

I google everything, which is why I can tell you about sperm whales' amazing interactions with humans, the ages and filmography of every Stranger Things actor, the history of the Guatemalan Civil War, the invention of the potato donut, and so much more!

Web browsers and search engines are things many of us consider ethics neutral. They are merely the framework we use to research, discuss, and deal with ethical issues. But that's not really true. 

Search engines are owned by private companies with private interests and varying degrees of respect for our privacy, or concern for basic human and ecological thriving. And not too many of them are concerned with the immediate impact of a quick search or a fall down the rabbit hole that is the internet.

I recently started using a search engine that confronts these ethical issues head on by offering accountability and an ecological benefit every time you do a search.

Introducing Ecosia. 

Ecosia Social good search engine - plant trees with every search

Click over to Ecosia, type in your search terms, press enter, and plant trees. 

How it works

Ecosia operates on the carbon neutral Bing platform, the second most popular search engine in the world, to offer a social benefit with every search.

Like all browsers, Ecosia displays ads alongside regular search results. When you click on those ads, Ecosia gets a commission. They pay business expenses and payroll, then use at least 80% of surplus income to plant trees through carefully selected partnerships around the world. As a certified B-Corp, they maintain accountability to the public by offering monthly income reports.

Why Plant Trees?

Planting trees isn't exactly the most glamorous issue to confront in the sustainability sector. But Ecosia chooses to invest their profits in planting trees because the benefit to people and planet is multi-fold and exposes the interconnectedness of ecological and human thriving.
why does ecosia plant trees?
It turns out, we need trees to survive. 

And in dramatically deforested places, replanting can mean the difference between life and death. From restoring one of the planet's 36 biodiversity hotspots in Tanzania to reforesting orangutan habitat devastated by the palm oil industry in Borneo, trees give animals their homes back, reduce erosion, and ensure that soil is fertile for crop production. The organizations Ecosia partners with also offer longterm conservation education and help locals transition into sustainable industries.

In the longterm, healthy forest ecosystems contribute dramatically to human flourishing. Forests pull water from their roots and release it through their leaves, which creates clouds that water crops; they regulate the temperature of their environment; they produce food like nuts, berries, and spices; and they reduce the effects of climate change, both by removing CO2 from the air and by creating microclimates that protect sensitive crops. Trees have evolved to protect us in the most foundational ways, by providing clean air and regulated growth of edible plants.

To date, Ecosia has helped plant over 16 million trees!
Ecosia Social good search engine - plant trees with every search
And all that to say this: switching your search engine might literally be the easiest sustainable switch you'll ever make. 

If you switch to Ecosia for all your shopping this Holiday season, you'll contribute to dramatic and sustainable progress.

So what are you waiting for? Start using Ecosia now.


Photos by Stephan Vance and John Price on Unsplash

The Discerning Consumer: 5 Ethical Credentials To Prioritize

5 Ethical Credential to Prioritize for the Conscious Consumer

This is sort of a follow up to my What Is Ethical? post, so I'd recommend brushing up on terms if you're not too familiar with the jargon of the conscious consumer movement. I would make a small change to the original list when it comes to defining sustainable. I previously grouped Eco, Organic, and Sustainable into the same category, albeit with a bit of nuance, but now I tend to think of sustainability in a much broader sense. 

A sustainable business should incorporate practices that are good for the earth, good for all people involved (farmer to consumer), and good for long term profitability and appropriate (not exploitative) growth. 

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This piece includes some affiliate links. 

In many ways, this post is meant to illuminate where my ethical efforts are headed, and what I've considered and processed over the last several months. I realize that sometimes my point of view will shift on a particular facet of the conscious consumerism experience, but because it's either articulated in private conversation or simply gets stuck in my head, there's the occasional gap in the narrative on StyleWise, which leads to questions and confusion. 

That being said, you may have noticed that I've become a little bit of an eco-crunchy-hippie, particularly in the last year. Reading the literature on climate change and understanding how interconnected ecological issues are with human welfare has pushed me toward a perspective that gives environmental sustainability near if not equal weight with labor rights. Ensuring worker welfare is tied up in reducing chemical dyes and processes, eliminating harmful pesticides, and making sure the ecosystem that supports those workers survives the onslaught of abuse mass production hurls at it daily.

I think it's hard for a lot of us, maybe particularly those of us who were brought up with human-centric religious and social values, to feel very much when we talk about ecological degradation, and that lack of empathy can hold us back from seeing that this really does matter and that we have a responsibility to be good and gracious stewards of the earth and its resources. 

But, enough philosophizing! This post is actually about my hierarchy of values and how I decide what makes the cut when I'm hankering for a new item to add to my closet or home. The key is remembering that no company is perfect, so progress and apparent interest in improving their supply chain sometimes matters more than having a certification. 

For simplicity's sake, I'm not going to talk about secondhand shopping, because that's an option that exists almost as a secondary market with its own criteria. For more on that, read my personal thrift shopping rules here.


1. Overall Sustainability


Obviously, companies that take a measured, holistic approach to ethical business are my top pick. That means that they take the long view, ensuring worker welfare; creating innovative initiatives that build lasting infrastructure; treating all workers as equal partners in long term growth; creating high quality, marketable designs; and using and/or developing environmentally sustainable processes, textiles, and everything in between. 

Numi Tea does this extraordinarily well, as do Tonle and ZADY, though Eileen Fisher may represent the pinnacle of this responsible, thoughtful business model.

2. Fair Trade Labor Practices


People should not be treated like slaves. Other than the fact that it should inherently be something we're opposed to, it's also bad business practice. Downtrodden people have a hard time innovating. Overworked people have a hard time building lives for themselves and their children that will improve local infrastructure and lift communities and countries out of corruption and poverty. We may not be able to sway leaders in countries where the most dangerous sweatshops are housed, but we can say we aren't okay with allowing some people to get virtually no share of the prosperity good business should bring about. 

Krochet Kids, Elegantees, Mata Traders, Equal Exchange, and Ten Thousand Villages are exemplars of the fair trade movement.

3. Dedication to Environmentally Sound Practices


Just because it's fair doesn't mean it has our ecosystems' best interests in mind. Nearly all commercial dyes used in the clothing industry are toxic, so even if factories are properly ventilated, there's the question of how byproducts are disposed of. Somewhere down the line, someone or something gets hurt. I applaud those companies that have switched over to organic cotton, but cotton is a thirsty crop and, in some ways, that makes it inefficient. Companies that use safely processed bamboo and eucalyptus fibers, repurposed textiles, and factory remnants offer a better alternative. Even better when they use recycled packaging and renewable energy at their factories.

Amour Vert, Naja, Dorsu, and PACT are great examples of this point of view.

4. Made locally or benefits local culture and economy


Sometimes you just want to celebrate local artists! I've eased up a bit on my scrutinizing gaze when it comes to local artisan work and products from local, small scale boutiques. While perfect production standards are an important goal, I think that the key to getting more people on board with conscious consumerism is letting them see the quality of artisan products up close, so supporting small businesses that allow that to happen is key. Items from small scale designers and craftspeople were likely crafted with what we'd consider fair labor practices, but materials sourcing is often murky. Occasionally, local designers will outsource some of their production, but the great thing is that you can actually have a conversation with them about it and figure out why.

Local businesses I love are OESH; Savvy Rest; C'Ville Arts Gallery; and Rock, Paper, Scissors.

5. Messaging with the potential to lead industry change


This bullet point is really about Everlane. Everlane has transparent pricing and used to be pretty good about letting you into their factory practices. I think they've lost some of that accessibility as they've scaled. They also don't share a lot about their textiles or raw materials sourcing. But because of their incredible success, they've encouraged a lot more companies and consumers to consider and start to dismantle the fast fashion industry. Because of companies like Everlane, people are beginning to demand quality products sold with pricing transparency. In many ways, it's given some amount of power back to the people. As long as we keep asking questions, we're on our way to growing the ranks.

I should also mention TOMS and Warby Parker as companies that start the conversation without fully committing to sustainability. Maybe we can work together to push them toward it.

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Though this list was written in hierarchical order, I prioritize progress over perfection. Sometimes good design wins the day over the best ethical credentials. Sometimes a company is so innovative in one way that I believe they deserve support, even if they aren't completely with it in every way. And I believe that it's up to the individual consumer to create their own set of standards within the broader umbrella of conscious consumerism.

Conversations with people who don't quite agree with me is what has led me to my current list. It's broadened my view on some points and hyper-focused it on others.

I'm curious to know what you prioritize, and what companies you hold up as industry standards. 

EWC Zero Waste Challenge: Paying Attention Counts for Something

zero waste challenge

This week of the Zero Waste Challenge was harder and easier at the same time. I know that doesn't make sense, but here's why. On the one hand, there were some unavoidable trash moments because I attended both an open house through my work and a launch party for new business, Hem and Haw. Where finger food is, you'll almost inevitably find disposable plates and cups and obviously I wanted to eat, drink, and be merry, so I used a couple of cups and a paper plate.

On the other hand, I think I've come up with a long term strategy for reducing my waste.

It's called paying attention


I'll totally overwhelm myself if I cut everything out at once, but several of you have suggested some easy alternatives to things I wasn't sure I could let go of:

  • I currently use cotton balls to apply toner at night. This week, I opted to tear them in half to reduce waste. As soon as I'm out, I'll switch to a crochet ball variety that can we washed and re-used (I previously purchased cotton pads for this purpose, but they weren't absorbent enough). I'll either purchase from an etsy seller or beg my mom to make some for me. 
  • There are some produce items and food that don't really need to be sealed shut in the refrigerator. As Teresa suggested, I will dedicate a plate or container to half-used onions and cover leftovers with a ceramic plate instead of wrapping everything in plastic wrap. I think I'll also try to stock up/save wide mouth jars, as Eimear suggested, to store bulk items and leftovers.
  • At home and at work, I use too many paper towels. As Rebekah suggested, I'll grab some unsellable donations from the shop to cut into rags for cleaning and make sure to put a towel in the bathroom at work for employees to dry their hands off with. 

Did I manage to stay abreast of any of these zero waste innovations this week? No, unfortunately. When things get busy, I start to forget that I'm supposed to be reducing personal waste. I've decided to be gracious with myself but move forward with achievable goals. 

I didn't keep a proper tally of my waste this week, but it's fair to say I used several paper towels, toilet paper, and a few cotton balls. Additionally, there was one unavoidable straw and napkin at a restaurant, a couple of plastic cups, and a cardboard frozen dinner carton.

The good news is that I triumphantly avoided a disposable cup at the coffee shop this morning! I had to catch the barista quick before he made my cafe au lait.

What I've Learned:

Generally, I've approached this challenge the way I approach food. I eat mostly vegetarian/pescatarian at home, but I won't put on a dramatic monologue and refuse "unacceptable" food when it's offered to me at parties and people's homes. In the same way, if a server puts a straw in my drink, I'm not going to throw a tantrum. 

I make the choice when I have the choice to make, but I don't want to harass people or shame them. Ultimately, reducing waste must be a collective, systematic goal. We need to change our food and manufacturing systems, prioritize local and bulk options to reduce packaging, and make the long term effects of trash more apparent. Honestly, we should probably live closer to landfills. It would help to see that it doesn't just go away after we've tossed it.

Additional Reading/Viewing:



Check out the triumphs and struggles of other members of the Ethical Writers Coalition on their blogs:

EWC Zero Waste Challenge: Introduction + Days 1-2

zero waste challenge with the ethical writers coalition
Graphic by Elizabeth Stilwell

After a lively conversation about how difficult it is to go zero waste without losing friends and being mean to service workers (this may be an exaggeration, but it's awfully hard to say no to paper and plastic items when you're not totally in control of your shopping and eating), me and a handful of other members of the Ethical Writers Coalition decided to take on a 2 week long Zero Waste Challenge.

Here are the guidelines:

  1. Baseline is not sending anything to the landfill.
  2. As long as you can (responsibly) recycle it or compost it, it doesn't count as waste.
  3. You have to verify that the items you put in your recycling or compost bins are actually recyclable.
  4. You must document how much waste you produce and why, honestly.
  5. Waste produced on your behalf at restaurants and other public places counts as your waste, too.

For the first couple of days, instead of actively going zero waste, I decided to carefully monitor my normal habits at home. Since I'd already purchased food and kitchen implements that produce waste, I used what I had. For simplicity's sake, I'll just be listing the waste I produced.

Saturday

  • Coffee filter
  • Pre-packaged spinach bag
  • Plastic produce bag containing cucumber
  • Plastic wrap and styrofoam tray from mini red potatoes packaging
  • Cotton ball 
  • Toilet paper
  • 3 paper towels
  • Pre-packaged snack cake plastic
  • 3 pieces of chocolate wrapped in foil (recyclable, but I forgot to put them in recycling bin)
  • Onion skin (compostable, but I didn't compost it)

Sunday

  • Coffee filter
  • Pre-packaged lasagna with plastic wrap and soiled cardboard (not recyclable)
  • Banana peel (compostable, but I didn't compost it)
  • Tea bag (compostable, but didn't compost it)
  • Napkins used at restaurant
  • Cotton ball
  • Toilet paper
  • 2 paper towels

What I learned so far:

The saddest thing on this list are the items I could have composted or recycled that I just didn't think about. My local farmer's market has a communal compost bin, but I'm afraid they'll be closing up for the fall pretty soon, so I'll need to examine better ways to compost (plus, I hardly ever make it to the farmer's market - Saturdays are for sleeping in!).

I should also note that I chose potatoes wrapped in plastic over the alternative because they were the only mini russet potatoes available and they looked fresher than the unpackaged, full sized variety. I really need to get myself some reusable produce bags, though (I'm going to do that today!).

I just ordered a pour-over coffee kit with a reusable filter with birthday money from my mother-in-law (thanks, Kathy!), so that will take care of my coffee filter usage longterm (I'm excited about finding daily rituals to force me out of bed when the mornings are dark, so I'm also thinking this pour-over switch will help with my mental health through the winter months).

I never use straws anymore, so I avoided that issue altogether when I ate out Sunday night.

Shopping List:

  • Reusable Cotton Balls (I have pads, but they don't absorb toner very well)
  • Reusable Produce Bags
  • Composting setup

I'll post again in a few days!


If you'd like to participate in this challenge with the Ethical Writers Coalition, just make sure to tag us (#ethicalwritersco and @ethicalwriters + #ewczerowastechallenge) on social media!


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See why I'm trying to go Zero Waste here.

sustainable living: making the switch to cloth pads

cloth menstrual pads

A couple of months ago, I finally made the switch to cloth pads. After the Kotex pad I had used for years was discontinued — it was part of the line that gave TSS to former model Lauren Wasser — I decided I needed to make a change.

I've spent the last three years blogging about conscious consumerism, so it was about time I extended my ethics to everyday goods like pads. From both a financial and environmental perspective, it was the right choice for me, and I wish I'd made it sooner...

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Read the rest at Mind Body Green

EWC Second Hand Challenge: don't chuck your junk in my backyard

Ethical Writers Coalition Second Hand Challenge

The Ethical Writers Co. of which I am a part has decided to host a Second Hand Challenge for the month of September. That means something different to each of us, but we're all hoping to bring to light the beauty of buying second hand. I've gone on and on about the benefits of secondhand shopping already, even writing an article about it for Relevant Magazine, but I'm still learning to Shop Secondhand First for everything instead of impulse buying on Amazon.

Since I manage a thrift shop, my perspective on the secondhand industry is perhaps more obsessively parsed out than most. While I think that the used goods market is a vital middle man between retail stores and the landfill, it is by no means a perfect system. For one, a lot of donors assume that everything they give to thrift shops and other charities will find a happy home and go on to live a full life, but that's just not the case. At my shop - and I think we're rather generous about what we keep - we often get rid of nearly 50% of what comes in on any given day. We send most of that off to another charity in the hopes that they'll find some use for it, but we're fooling ourselves if we don't admit that half of that pile will end up being thrown out.

"...we often get rid of nearly 50% of what comes in on any given day."


This is the biggest pitfall of the secondhand market: it operates (for many) as a guilt release valve for over-consumption. People don't feel bad about buying new stuff because they know they can hand over all their old stuff to charity. They don't have to deal with the burden of tossing it in the trash.

This point assumes, of course, that people tend to feel guilty about throwing things away, but that's not true for everyone. Some people give to thrift shops simply because it makes them feel like they've done their good deed for the week. One donor even told me that she considers donating her stuff to thrift shops her primary act of goodwill, as if handing over unwanted items to us is a heavy burden for her. While I'm sure every charity shop is immensely grateful that people donate, it shouldn't replace real activism. The donor-receiver relationship is mutually beneficial; it's an exchange, not a great moral deed.


"If we acknowledged the people behind the products we purchased, I think it'd be much harder to part with them."


Another downside of the secondhand market's existence is that it allows people to be flippant about their possessions and the human and environmental costs of production. If we acknowledged the people behind the products we purchased, I think it'd be much harder to part with them. I've made it a habit to pray for the makers of the things I buy, use, and wear whether they were fairly sourced or not, not so much because I think my prayer will change the lives of those I pray for, but because I think the habitual act of prayer will change my heart for the better - it will orient my thinking toward justice and intentionality.

Despite its shortcomings (but let's be honest, they're really our shortcomings), shopping secondhand is still a very good thing, because it gives perfectly usable things another chance to live our their intended lives instead of being thrown out or otherwise abandoned. And everyone can benefit from the secondhand market: people with lower incomes have access to nice things, shopaholics can curb their spending, landfills don't fill up so quickly, local charities receive financial support, and the people who made the goods in the first place are remembered and respected through the long term use of their products. But, as with everything in this life, we must act responsibly.

rules for shopping with intention

Shopping secondhand is a budget friendly way to shop more sustainably and I'm determined to get in the habit of buying more than just clothes on the secondhand market. Vacuum cleaners, coffee pots, printers, paper, CDs, gift wrapping - there are lots of surprising things to be found at your local thrift. Plus, there are a ton of other ways to get exactly what you're looking for on the secondhand market thanks to marketplaces like ebay and thredup; or you could host a swap with your friends or in your community and find things you love for free (plus, passing things on to the specific people you know will value them is often a better option than donating willy-nilly to a thrift shop). I figure that if I can buy something that's on a slippery slope to the landfill instead of buying new, that's a small win for sustainability.

"Vacuum cleaners, coffee pots, printers, paper, CDs, gift wrapping - there are lots of surprising things to be found at your local thrift."


So follow along with me and the EWC this month as we take on the #ethicalwritersco Second Hand Challenge. If you use our hashtag on social media, we'll be able to see what you're up to and get some inspiration! You may be a novice to shopping secondhand or a seasoned pro, but we want to know how you're taking advantage of charity shops and online consignment sites to create a more sustainable, less wasteful life.

Additional Reading:


From the EWC:



it's time to reduce our plastic consumption


Base photo: Plastic Pellets - "Nurdles" by gentlemanrook on flickr; used under Creative Commons license

This post was written by Hannah Baror-Padilla and originally appeared on Gold Polka Dots, an eco-conscious blog that focuses on ethical alternatives for fashion, beauty and food.
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Plastic has taken over every aspect of our lives and is affecting our health, animals and the environment. Over the last 10 years, we have produced more plastic than we had in the last century. Half of the plastic we use is only used once and thrown away. Throwing plastic away means it is either buried in landfills, remade into other products or lost in the environment where it ultimately washes out to sea because it takes 500-1,000 years to degrade. When plastic “degrades” it breaks down into smaller fragments, but never goes away because plastic was made to be indestructible. And yes, this indestructible plastic is made with chemicals that we as well as animals ingest.
BPA, or Bisphenol, was originally created as a human birth control chemical in the early 1900’s, but banned because of its risks of causing cancer in women. However, in the 1950’s, scientists realized that BPA can be used to harden plastic to make it that much more durable. To this day, BPA is still used in baby bottles, water bottles, food packaging, cans and receipts. 93% of adults are contaminated with BPA. There have been studies on animals that show BPA affects hormone levels, causes brain and behavior problems, cancer, heart problems and other conditions like obesity, diabetes, ADHD. There is an increased risk in children because their bodies have a decreased ability to clear BPA from their systems.
In 2010, scientists revealed that the general population may suffer adverse health effects from current BPA levels. In 2012, the FDA banned the use of BPA in baby bottles, but the Environmental Working Group called the ban “”purely cosmetic” and said the FDA would have to ban BPA from all food packaging. The FDA continues to support the safety of BPA in food packaging...
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Read the rest and find additional resources on this topic at Gold Polka Dots.

#whomademyclothes? ZADY knows

fashion revolution day 2015 zady

Zady is an ethical brand and business that goes above and beyond your average ethics-minded company. They're activists who made a huge splash when they bought a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal to post their manifesto a couple years ago. They're also the US headquarters for the Fashion Revolution Day movement (are you wearing your clothes inside out today?)

To highlight the fact that labor rights and sustainability go hand in hand, Zady released their .02 T-Shirt on Earth Day and just before Fashion Revolution Day. It's made from start to finish in the United States, so the supply chain is transparent and traceable.

We need to demand better in every step of the supply chain: better regulation, better materials, better treatment of people and planet. One way for companies to ensure that this is being done is to source and manufacture products on a smaller scale, within the same region (Everlane did this with their soon-to-be-released street shoe) or closer to the parent company, like Zady did with the .02 tee. We can't change an industry if we don't know what's going on inside of it, and companies don't feel obligated to hold themselves accountable if they're not even sure who makes their clothes, so we need to keep asking Who made my clothes? until we get real answers.

The conscientious consumer movement feels like Guerrilla warfare a lot of the time. We're full of ideas, but we're not united. We can't always see who or what we're fighting against, or who we're fighting for. Transparency is vital and there's no better time than now to start moving forward together.

So wear your clothes inside out today, or don't. But stir up people to join the team and spread the word. We need all the help we can get.


Read more Fashion Revolution Day posts from the Ethical Blogger Network:

Read more posts from the Ethical Writers Coalition:

chocolate for valentine's day

equal exchange
image source: Equal Exchange

I'm not really sure why bloggers write weeks of Valentine's Day content considering that the holiday is really just a blip on the holiday schedule. That being said, I think now is maybe the best time to talk about my favorite fair trade food: chocolate.

While fair trade fashion is my first passion, I truly believe that it can't end there. I want to tread lightly in every aspect of my lifestyle and I'm looking to make fair trade and environmentally sustainable items my first choice in every category. I think it's really easy for self described "conscious consumers" to draw lines around our pet project for the sake of our own sanity - it's hard to make better choices all the time from Day One - but we have to remember that environmental and social sustainability are both necessary if we intend to build thriving, considerate communities.

Without further ado, I'll get off my soapbox and present you with my favorite fair trade and sustainable chocolate products:

Equal Exchange


This company was love at first sight (well, taste) for me. Equal Exchange believes in small scale farms and collective ownership; every employee is a part owner. Relying on small, locally run co-ops allows the company to make accurate judgments as to the condition and fairness of work and wages and it also discourages wide scale destruction of native landscapes. I worked at a coffee shop that used Equal Exchange coffee and a representative came to give us steamed milk training (which I loved!). It was great to be able to talk to an employee and get a better sense of the work environment.


equal



Divine Chocolate


This is my second favorite chocolate company. Divine also operates under a co-op structure, with the Ghanaian farmers owning shares in the larger company. They were the first fair trade chocolate bar that attempted to compete in the non-specialty chocolate market and, by all accounts, they've been pretty successful.

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If you're hunting for the perfect chocolate-y recipes, I suggest:

Or...

Buy some fair trade chocolate hearts at 20% off.

I hope you feel loved this Valentine's Day. And if you're looking for a meaningful movie suggestion, I recommend Take This Waltz.

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Read more ethical Valentine's Day posts:


Valentine's Day - All the Romance Without the Consumerism
by Hannah at Life + Style + Justice

a good read: ecouterre's eco-fashion predictions

Ecouterre recently asked 37 ethical and eco-minded designers, leaders, and organizers what 2015 holds for the sustainable fashion industry. Though no one knows for sure how things will pan out, most believe that this may be the year the movement hits critical mass. Things are changing, and with starlets and world leaders talking about it and wearing conscientious clothing, the larger population is sure to join in soon.

image source: ecouterre

The difficult thing about discussing fair trade, for me at least, is that it's always a give and take between endorsing sustainable brands and limiting consumption and consumerist ideals. If fair trade becomes a trend, that means we can get a lot of people motivated to spend their money on things that make a difference. But I'm a big believer that motives matter. Ideally, a move toward sustainability will include thoughtfulness and conviction, and help us slow down a bit in our race to get what's new and better. In the short term at least, it can't be helped that we're forcing ethical ideals into the Capitalist framework that forms our economic identity. But we should try to acknowledge that the consumerist system we live within is a construct. It does not represent all possible realities. We must strive to change shopping habits and hearts. We don't have to settle for less.

All that said, I am really inspired by what these ethical leaders have to say about the future of sustainable fashion and I'm in a bit of disbelief that changes are happening quickly and on an international scale. Let's keep fightin' the good fight. Let's keep reassessing what our goals are and what they should be!

A few excerpts:

Over the past year, we’ve seen the end of greenwashing as an industry practice as more designers and brands focus on the internal shifts within their companies and supply chains needed for real actionable change. While the importance of the consumers' education for better quality fashion still exists, 2015 will be a year for retooling internal operations. - Lewis Perkins
And, as consumers are made increasingly aware that both fast fashion and fast luxury are responsible for unethical fashion, I predict the resurrection of the artisan, as we collectively look into our heritage, as well as innovation, for sustainable solutions. - Orsola de Castro
On the brighter side, Fashion Revolution enters its second year. Carrying on the groundswell of international support, the global conversation will be opened even further. More people than ever before will demand to know that their clothing has not been made at the expense of people or the planet, and the public will expect that brands are able to ensure this. - Sarah Ditty

All quotes excerpted from Ecouterre's 37 Eco-Fashion Predictions for 2015

i don't think minimalism means what you think it means

simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

Minimalism is in.

Capsule wardrobes; intentional living; clean lines; sustainable, closet-sized homes. But I hope you realize that the list I just spouted off represents two very different approaches to minimalism and that doing one doesn't necessarily indicate anything about the other.

Officially, the term minimalism applies to an aesthetic that favors spareness and simplicity. But more broadly, it has come to represent a pared down lifestyle that advertises itself as the answer to the breakneck pace and over-indulgence of American culture. We're stressed out, always working, constantly comparing ourselves to others, and we think that if we unclutter our living spaces, we may be able to make some room for stillness and reflection.

minimalism essay

Aesthetic minimalism places no barriers on consumption. But simple living minimalism is almost entirely about living with less. Though the two are at odds, they share enough in common superficially to conveniently allow us to feel like we're improving ourselves while consuming and curating just as much as usual.

Case in point: A very prominent blogger I follow is doing a series on simplifying life. In a recent post, she indicated that she got rid of everything in her closet to buy a whole new closet of more classic items like - wait for it - leopard print sneakers and jeans with holes in them. The only intentional living I'm seeing here is intentionally finding excuses to stock up on trendy items.

quote2

The reason this matters - the reason I'm freaking out about it - is that confusing a look with an ethic is really dangerous. It's destructive to the fair trade movement, too, because it distracts people on this really exciting, really hard path to long-term ethical living. It's like a snake oil advertisement: Ease your first world guilt by literally not changing anything! The only problem is that you're actually just swallowing a bunch of poison (or maybe corn starch, if you're lucky).

Look, it's fine if you like the minimalism trend. I agree, it's pretty groovy. But don't confuse simple silhouettes with moral living. Your capsule wardrobe is not for a good cause.

And please, for the love of God (this isn't me swearing; I really mean it), please don't pretend that donating your whole wardrobe to the local thrift store is a great philanthropic deed.

floydfest style revolution

This weekend, Daniel and I headed off to the boonies of Floyd, VA for FloydFest, a folk music festival in the mountains. I got free tickets in exchange for modeling in the first annual FloydFest Fashion Show. The festival prides itself on sustainability, so all garments featured in the show were handmade, fair trade, and organic. It was great to be able to touch and see items from the headlining brand, Synergy Organic Clothing. I wasn't sure how flattering their stretchy, organic knits would be, but it turns out they look good on everyone.

The show's aesthetic was inspired by The Hunger Games, complete with fire pits at the end of the runway and epic opening music. Models were grouped as District or Capitol. Guess which one I represented:

mod1floydfest style revolution the hunger games

I really enjoyed wearing cool outfits and walking the runway (I got to wear a ball gown made of feathers, complete with feather gloves and a headdress!), but I don't think I'll go back next year. Big festivals in the middle of nowhere aren't my thing. It's a mixture of geographical isolation and social over-stimulation. I wouldn't say I'm agoraphobic exactly, but I'm definitely agorannoyed.

I'll post outfit shots if I can get my hands on them!

I'm just happy to have a long stretch of being at home after a month of endless traveling.

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spring cleaning

bee

An important part of sustainable living is avoiding unnecessary purchases. It's something I hadn't considered when I started my fair trade journey a few years ago, but it might be one of the most important habits to adopt in the long run. Reducing my overall consumption in terms of how many things I buy is awesome because it naturally reorients my spending. It gives me the freedom in my budget to save up for fair trade options I really want instead of making stupid impulse purchases at every thrift store in town. It also gives me the wiggle room to invest in non-material things like traveling or just spending the afternoon reading instead of shopping around.

I went through my closet yesterday and realized I don't even wear a dozen pairs of shoes I own. The fact that I can get rid of a dozen pairs of shoes without making a real dent in my collection is baffling! I also found 8 or so varieties of the same knit shirt that I never wear. Granted, many of them were thrift store finds, but acquiring them wasted time and money better spent elsewhere.

I think the desire to dress creatively is great, but there's a tricky balance between wanting to be fashionable and buying responsibly. I think it's ok to infuse my wardrobe with the occasional kooky thrift store purchase, but even when shopping on the secondhand market, I need to weigh the practicality and long term potential of each item before pulling out the credit card. Sigh. It's an ongoing battle, but I am making progress. I'm learning how to work toward my goals as a consumer and conscientious citizen of the world without all the unproductive guilt trips I used to take myself on.

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12 months, 12 goals

1212goals

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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