Do you know what makes shopping local so wonderful and extra awesome?
It’s that behind almost every brand committed to fair and local manufacturing stands a woman or man with a vision to make the world better. No bullshit. This is what I find over and over with made right (here) brands.
Some are motivated by sustainability, some by employing their neighbors , some want to bring craftsmanship back. Some, like the founders of Sweedie Kids, found that with their scarf-like bibs, they could make a big impact on the life of bigger kids with disabilities.
“We care about giving, and we do that through “Sweedie Dreams”. When you purchase a Big Kid Bib, you are contributing to Sweedie Dreams because it’s not just a product, it represents our passion for serving those with special needs. For each Big Kid Bib we sell, we give $1 to an organization tied to serving those with different abilities.”
Nowadays it’s not that hard to find cute, made in USA bibs for babies, but what makes Sweedie Kids the most ethical choice is that they’re also making bibs for a market that is so often forgotten. For children who are so often forgotten.
Super absorbent, cool designs and made from Oeko-Tex certified fabrics (i.e. certified safe, sustainable, ethical materials), these bibs get the job done no matter the age of the wearer.
August has been modeling these bibs since he was about three months old. I wouldn’t go as far as saying they make drooling cool, but maybe just a tad bit more fashionable. (They’re also pretty great for when we practice drinking out of a glass. Let’s just say that not all the water ends up in baby’s tummy just yet!)
But, then came the question; If we are to buy fewer leather bags – are there any durable, good-looking, made in USA, vegan handbags out there we can buy instead?
When it comes to “pleather”, a plastic, leather-looking material, often found at H&M and Forever 21, I have one thing to say: no thanks. It breaks, it doesn’t look as good, and we don’t like plastic anyway, now do we? There is a new material in town though, Piñatex, which looks a lot like leather, is durable and also eco-friendly. Piñatex fibres are the by-product of the pineapple harvest so no extra land, water, fertilizers or pesticides are required to produce them. However, shops are not exactly overflowing with this material yet, and why if we don’t want leather would we have bags that look like leather?
I say screw that! Instead why not venture out and pick one of these five nothing-to-do-with-leather materials:
Cork is super sustainable and as it turns out, super stylish.
Did you know that a cork tree that has its bark removed every nine years will absorb up to five times as much CO2 as a tree that doesn’t? In other words using the cork is good for the tree, good for the environment and good for, mainly, Spain’s and Portugal’s economies.
One brand to keep in mind if you’re into the look and durability of cork, is Nest Pure. Handcrafted, high quality bags and accessories, made right here in Minnesota. In addition to the main material, cork, the bags come with various colors of organic cotton.
2. Recycled Sails
It may sound like a bit of a stretch but old, no longer usable sails from boats become the most awesome tote bags up in Maine. You may have read my blog post a few weeks ago about Seabags of Maine and my new turtle tote? If not, check it out here for more details about this cool brand.
PS. The fabrics are not really recycled, they’re “reused” :)
What’s wrong with the look of cotton? Actually, nothing as far as I’m concerned! I’ve been sporting my cotton tote bag quite a bit on the blog actually.
Canvas is made from either linen, hemp or cotton – all natural materials – and make for durable fabrics when waxed. What about the wax you say? Well, yes, using beeswax means this fabric is not vegan, so I’m cheating a little, but it is still far from the eco-nightmare of leather. In my opinion, using beeswax makes much more sense than using a poly-based (fossil fuel) wax. But that’s just me.
Newton Supply Co. out of Austin, Texas, makes the cutest waxed canvas bags. (Some do come with natural color, veg-tanned leather details so look out for that.) This company is extra awesome because they’re partnered with Open Arms, a division of the Austin-based Multicultural Refugee Coalition which empowers refugee women by providing living wage employment. Cool.
5. Seat Belts
It may be unusual, but yes, Harvey’s makes bags out of seat belts, in sunny California. There are endless styles, colors and sizes to chose from. My good friend has a backpack, which is lightweight, well made and sized “just right”.
The company started out using actual old seat belts, salvaged from broken cars, which was super sustainable! I’m pretty sure the current handbags are made from newly woven “seat belts” though. Still, this unusual “fabric” makes for a fun, vegan handbag.
6. Bonus Tip: If all else fails, go second hand
Here’s what, if you can’t stand carrying a purse that doesn’t look like leather or in fact IS made of leather, yet you’re not keen on another cow dying and more pollutants being released; second hand will be your saving grace. Mom’s or grandma’s closet is normally a great place to start browsing! It’s made, it’s there, give that leather bag a new home.
(And yes, I do know that a vegan would never go for option number 4 or 6, but not all leather-skipping readers are. It’s all about inspiration to shop differently ;))
Anyone still in the mood for a leather bag made in China??!
Despite being on a shop-local-misson, when it’s fair-trade and organic, I occasionally import. This summer, I decided to import a shirt.
After all, certified fair-trade initiatives must be supported and organic cotton growers in India must get paid. In fact, because of our purchases, they make a much better, safer living than farmers still growing conventional (pesticide-covered, fertilized, Monsanto seed) cotton.
Did you know that due to debt owed to the seed producer, one conventional cotton farmer commits suicide every eight hours in India? That’s three souls per day.
When we demand organic fabric, more and more farmers can make the transition to growing organic crops. Here’s a promising read about how growing organic cotton frees Indian families from the (GMO) debt traps, if you’re interested.
Back to the shirt.
A light, airy, plaid shirt from eco-friendly brand PrAna looks and feels just right for summer and my upcoming days at the office (going back to work soon!).
100% organic cotton, certified fair-trade, soft, great fit. Also, loving me some great bonus details such as the green stitching on just one of the button holes and a hidden pocket on the right side. I paid $47 for this shirt (sale price!) at our very favorite co-op REI right here in Houston.
Organic is cool.
Oh, and you might be wondering how much I’ve shopped this year, since I’ve written posts about a few new things lately! In addition to this shirt I’ve gotten a new eco-friendly bag ($160/USA/recycled fabric), a handmade scarf ($55/USA/organic), black tights ($10/USA/cotton) and a well made t-shirt ($36.50/USA/cotton). Five things in six months – that’s pretty good!
I’m wearing a size XS of the “Gina Shirt”, I’m 5’8″, 140’ish lbs.
The cool thing about this new bag by my new favorite maker Seabags of Maine, is that it’s made from old sails. Some may refer to the fabric as “recycled” but actually it’s simply reused, or upcycled, if you will. No energy consuming recycling process is needed to turn sails into bags – just washing, handcraft, threads and needles. That’s American handcraft of course.
“Our materials come from Maine first, New England second and USA third. We use the last remaining thread manufacturer in the U.S. We use the only rope manufacturer in New England. And our sail supply chain? Well, that’s as local as it gets. We collect our sails one at a time through a network of passionate boaters who love our community waters as much as we do.”
Though there are plenty of prints and designs to pick from, this medium size (14″ x 14″) turtle tote had my name on it.
I fell in love with turtles when we first moved to Texas because they’re everywhere! In ponds, lakes, bayous and sometimes backyards. Mostly we’ve got the red-eared slider here, and I’m pretty sure that that’s a sea turtle on my bag, but I love them all equally. (I love them more than enough to never use straws in my drinks! ;))
My new tote bag is sturdy, easy to clean (wipe off!), great size (I’ve got lots of baby gear with me and recently used it as carry-on on a cross-atlantic flight – it worked perfectly), vegan and has a very low carbon footprint for something new – being as it’s partly “old”. In fact, over the past 15 years, Seabags of Maine have saved over 500 tons of material from going into landfills.
And that is how it should be done, fashion industry.
PS. Since we are on vacation in Scandinavia at the moment, I shot these pictures on a Danish beach, on the other side of the Atlantic from where this bag was made. Same water, different shore. Pretty poetic.
Bags start at $45, totes at $120. Read more at Seabags.com
As a Swede in USA, it’s nice to sometimes show off my Swedishness with fashion. Not just with stripes and Euro stylishness (ha!) but with fabrics from Sweden.
Presenting this scarf; made by small business owner and Dallas-based designer Louise, whom I’ve gotten to know through blogging. It’s an infinity scarf, half Dala horses, a classic symbol of Sweden, and half stripes, my favorite thing. Both fabrics are organic and GOTS certified.
Louise normally spends her days sewing and designing children’s clothes, but it wasn’t hard to convince her to make a scarf for me.
The idea came to me when she gave us the cutest onesie for baby August, and I realized I wanted, no needed, Dala horses too. (Ok, that’s a lie. My inner consumer wanted it!) At least I won’t grow out of my scarf anytime soon, like baby will with his outfit :)
If you’re looking for well made, locally made and handmade kids’ (or maybe adult!) fashion, check out Louise on Instagram @MammaLouiseSyr or on her Facebook page (she’s got a sale going on the month of June!).
Prices vary depending on fabrics and styles. Find out more by reading my wonderful interview with Louise (from 2015) about her business here.
PS. If you’re not looking for a Swedish scarf or baby clothes, I encourage you to contact your local makers – maybe they can make you exactly what you need, or let’s say it, want. Not only working for, but also with customers, that’s the beauty of small business.
Now, I have a pretty good idea of where, how and by what kind of employee my (recently bought) clothes were made. I know this because I read tags like a maniac and spend the money necessary to only add small batch, made in USA fashion and Fair Trade styles to my closet. Not exactly news to anyone perhaps.
What might come as news to some, is that 80% of the world’s garment workers are women. This means that the majority of people who died or were injured in the factory collapse were women. Underpaid, overworked women, without benefits or sufficient needs to take care of their families. See, fast fashion is indeed a women’s issue.
Yes, because of that 80% statistic, but also because women in general tend to shop a lot more than men do. H&M, Zara, Gap, Banana, Macy’s, Michael Kors, Coach, Fossil and all stores like them, appeal mostly to women. The majority of fashion bloggers are women too. “Style of the week here we come!”
Many privileged women in the west go on marches, speak up for equality and some wear pussy hats. And that’s great, since, frankly, women still don’t have what men have. But what the privileged woman often forget is that her clothes were made by a woman across the ocean who can never take the time off to worry about knitting a pussy hat.
Marching for equality in an Old Navy top anyone?
Women’s rights are human rights, yes. It shouldn’t be a trendy (all of a sudden!) issue because massive amounts of (privileged) dimwits voted for an orange man (who says women have the “potential” to do great things according to his daughter) but a world issue, no matter who is president. What women do here, will always affect a woman there.
Thus, if you consider yourself a feminist, you cannot wear fast fashion.
When you shop fair, on the other hand, you are taking a stand and making an impact, demanding fair treatment of all the sisters (and brothers!) you’ll never know.
Take the pledge and ask “who made this garment?” next time you’re shopping. Only buy if and when you like the answer.
If you are a nature lover or environmentalist, chances are, you’ve got something from Patagonia in your closet. And rightfully so, they make good quality, practical clothes that last a long time.
I haven’t bought any new clothes for eco-baby other than two pairs of wool socks from Smart Wool and diapers (does that count?) and, as you may have guessed since I’m bringing it up: something from Patagonia. The rest of his fashion is all second hand.
I couldn’t resist this little tee though. It’s made in USA of fair-trade, 100% organic cotton (most likely grown in India or Turkey) and has a mason jar (the symbol of zero waste living) and a great statement “Live simply” on it. I found it at the clearance rack at Whole Earth Provision in Houston for only 10 dollars, so it was a pretty good deal too!
Let’s talk Patagonia. A company that decided to donate all proceeds from their Black Friday sales to environmental organizations last year. A company that’s into preserving the environment, reducing their carbon footprint and has been ever since they started in 1973. They have a repair program in which worn clothes are revived, produce a line of sustainably dyed jeans and all their cotton garments are 100% organic (some of it grown in the USA). They also offer paid family leave and on-site childcare (to their US employees).
That said, it was just a coincidence that I bought eco-baby a Patagonia shirt. Come to think of it, neither myself nor my husband own anything from the brand so I can’t say we’re fans. Why, if they’re so eco-friendly and fair haven’t we supported them more?
Honestly, I have some issues with them. Mostly, it’s the importing from China thing.
Patagonia manufactures the majority of their garments in Asia and thereby (pretty much) all their merchandise sold in USA is imported from far away. Eco-baby’s little tee is the first thing I’ve ever run into that’s made right here (still from imported fabric!).
Why is this such an issue to me?
About 70% of crude oil pumped from our precious soil or ocean floor becomes diesel or heating oil. A large chunk of that diesel is used by shipping transports, you know those huge container ships constantly cruising our oceans with “stuff”. To limit further climate change we MUST stop importing the vast quantities of goods from the Far East that we currently do. It is completely unsustainable and harms marine life. I find it strange that an eco-company takes this lightly.
And while Patagonia may say that all their Chinese shops are fair and eco-friendly, I can’t help but wonder if they really, truly know. I haven’t yet seen a fair-trade stamp in their fluffy jackets or in their plaid shirts made in China. (The Indian fabrics and jeans are certified, but not the Chinese.) Where’s the stamp? And how do they know the factories are running on green energy?
My second issue is the heavy use of polyesters, and I am not the first one to bring up this issue with Patagonia. Fleece being a favorite of many outdoorsmen, one would think Patagonia would have come up with a 100% plant-based fleece by now, considering poly-blends are made from fossil fuel and release a ton of plastic microfibers into our waters every time they’re washed. Right?
I’m curious to see if any of these concerns of mine will be addressed by Patagonia in the future. I hope so, but cheap labor and stay-dry fabrics sure are attractive for a global company.
In the end, what I am trying to say with this post is that although a company appears to be doing things properly, going beyond what is required by consumers and is by definition “green”, there may be policies that I, on my own eco-journey, don’t agree with. And just because I don’t want to shop everything a brand has to offer, doesn’t mean I can’t buy the items that indeed are made right (here).
There is no getting away from tag-checking! Every time. Every garment. Every brand.
You can check out Patagonia’s Global Footprint HERE.
Despite all the negativity surrounding us lately, a joyous season is upon us. I don’t know about you, but if we are to fiercely fight for what’s right in the coming four years, I think we need a nice break and to sit back and relax this Christmas, knowing that Obama and Biden are still in office.
Last week I shared an important post about where to donate your dollars this Holiday Season to make an impact and spread some eco-love. This week, I’d like to focus on promoting some ethical, eco-friendly brands, who just like us, openly supported a Hillary Clinton presidency and stand against hate and racism. These brands will help you give excellent, sustainable, made right (here) gifts to yourself or others worthy of a treat.
1. Bead & Reel
Bead & Reel is an ethical online boutique offering eco-friendly, cruelty free (vegan), sweatshop free fashion. Fair trade, organic, recycled material, female run brands – whatever you feel strongly about, they’ve got it. They’re good at listing where everything is made, so you can shop local if you want to too.
2. National Geographic
Can I just give a shout out to National Geographic? With their fantastic (yet frightening) environmental series Years of Living Dangerously and the new Leo movie Before the Flood, they sent a clear message about voting for the climate this election. A magazine subscription might not be the most zero waste gift, but one I’d sure like anyway! (Or go ahead an purchase Years of Living Dangerously on I-tunes!)
3. Rackk and Ruin
Rackk and Ruin is a Berlington, VT (Bernie’s home base) jewelry maker focusing on using natural materials like leather, feathers and metal in her handmade pieces. She’s offering safety pin gold earrings right now as well, so you can show off your anti-Trump feelings.
4. Skin Deep Naturals
You might remember Skin Deep Naturals from when I got my reusable, organic cotton make-up remover rounds earlier this year. However, there’s more to the brand than that. It’s a natural skin care line using safe ingredients straight from nature, without any synthetic ingredients or preservatives. Most ingredients are organic and fair trade certified and all are hate-free.
5. Seltzer Goods
Seltzer Goods are so much fun! They’re definitely on the “nice to have” scale of things, but one deserves a fun and colorful treat now and then. Tote bags, magnets, pens and more, with most everything being made right here. I bought myself a striped cat tote from them earlier this year, which is made in USA, 100% cotton and so cute.
6. Tabii Just
This zero waste, feminist designer just launched her fall collection, and it’s looking classy. Tabii Just is based and made in New York. I scored a gorgeous scarf made from scrap fabric this fall and I couldn’t be happier with it (maybe it’s the cute ball hem!?)
7. The Little Market
The Little Market is an online shop where customers can purchase handmade, fair trade products made by (female) artisans around the world. Every purchase, whether it be a blanket, accessory, candle, baby beanie or little apron, generates meaningful income for the artisans and their families. Lauren Conrad is one of the founders.
I just modeled my new shirt from Tradlands in my last post here on the blog! They’re all about perfectly crafted women’s shirts, keeping it small business and always made in USA with love (not hate). Check out their soft flannels or business button-ups.
Please readers, if you know of any great eco-brands, who openly and proudly voted against hate and bigotry, please share them with me in the comments! I sure can’t keep track of them all by myself ;)
In addition to voting with your dollars and buying what’s right, you should also avoid shopping at places that did support a Trump presidency (it’s a search away). Funny enough, the sustainable community is very unlikely to have done so, whereas, places like Hobby Lobby (Chinese junk store) and Chick-file (mass produced chicken) probably did.
If you’re more into zero waste gifts, check out my other posts on gifting and donating.
Today is officially the last day of August and with that, I have completed TWO thirds of my “12 pieces – 12 months” challenge!
You know, I decided back in January to buy a maximum of one new item for myself per month for the entire year of 2016, in order to reduce my consumption and live more sustainably.
I wrote a similar update post after completing four months on the challenge, and now the time has come to share what I’ve been spending money on during our long, never ending, hotter than the sun, Texas summer.
In May, I went on a work trip to New York and found myself downtown browsing away at Century 21. And not only browsing for that matter, I bought a made in Italy sweater from what I assume is a fancy designer, since it cost me $199! I love this sweater even though it wasn’t my best ever eco-purchase. Judging by the price and origin, I do believe it is a sweatshop-free item.
In June, hubby came across a new brand of reusable water bottles while reading a magazine, and we got ourselves a couple of Liberty Bottleworks bottles. They’re made in Washington State from 100% recycled aluminum. One 24 oz bottle was $23.
In July,I decided it was time to gear up for fall with a new pair of Oka-B ballet flats. This time I got myself a black pair with a grey pendant. Made in Georgia, recyclable, zero waste, vegan shoes at their best! And of course, only $45. Woop!
In August, the time had finally come to get myself an adult coloring book. Nerdy or awesome, who cares, it has cats. Lots of cats. I got it at Barnes and Noble for $13.95 and it is printed in Canada. Judging by the time I spent coloring half a page, this book will last for a long time.
I am very happy with all these things!!
As you can see, the challenge is not just about clothes, bags, accessories and shoes, it’s also about other “nice to have” things, like books and bottles.
Four more months to go! Will I succeed? I am planning on it!
Sustainable fashion is having a moment. A major moment.
And by moment, I don’t mean a sudden reduced consumption trend in the fashion industry or an upswing of people digging through thrift stores for hidden gems instead of buying new clothes. I mean it’s having a “Come buy this because it is sustainable”- moment.
Don’t get me wrong. We are definitely in need of companies doing things right, making it right here, picking the right fabrics in regards to environmental impact, paying the right salaries to the right employees and so forth. However, the question still remains, how can fashion be labeled “sustainable” when we’re constantly encouraged to keep shopping?
I have two concerns in particular.
I fear that the fashionistas are still buying all their cheap H&M clothes, sexy Victoria’s Secret bras and convenient Gap basics, only now they’re adding another cool dimension to their outfits with a sustainable item. In other words, they’re shopping more. “Look at me, I’m so trendy and this bag is handmade in USA of recycled hemp. #SustainableFashion”
I suspect that the sustainability interest stops with the fashion. And by fashion I mean what we show off using our bodies. I doubt that the sustainable fashion people also stopped buying I-phones, plastic China-made toys for their kids, made in Pakistan rayon work-out socks and imported Christmas decorations.
It can’t only be about sustainable fashion. There has be more to it.
Sure, fashion is a start, but how does one justify slave-labor-made decorations from China when it’s suddenly UNTHINKABLE to buy a sweat-shop-made shirt from Bangladesh? Sweat shops make other things than clothes, you know.
And there has to be less. Less stuff.
A made in the USA top you’ll never wear is not a sustainable purchase, even if it is made responsibly down the street of eco-friendly materials. No one (except the industry) will applaud you for buying it.
We can’t buy things because they are sustainable, ethical or made locally.
First, we have to decide what we need (or, let’s be honest, want) and then we have to make sure we pick an ethical, made right (here) product. That is sustainable shopping. Yes, it takes effort. Yes, it takes responsibility. Yes, it takes awareness. Yes, at times we will fail (that’s ok).
Yes, it is worth it. It has to be. #SustainableEverything