Tag Archives: Ethical Fashion

Is shopping from the clearance rack environmentally friendly?

Let me start by admitting that I do a lot of my shopping from clearance racks and department store outlets. Bloomingdale’s, Saks, Nordstrom – bring it on.

The reason shopping clearance works quite well for me is that I am able to find natural fibers and made in USA or Europe clothes without breaking the bank. Plus, I am not the one to jump on the latest trends, so whatever I like at the store – last or current season – is what I buy.

And yes, this is a legitimate question of mine, one which I’d really like your input.

Is it environmentally friendly to shop clearance racks?

Helmut Lang wool shirt Bloomingdales

First, here’s what all major fashion retailers do with unsold clothes:

  1. They try to sell them at the clearance rack.
  2. They donate them to organizations and hope they will be sold or given away.
  3. They try to sell them thru programs that distribute merchandise in other countries. (Often talking about poorer countries that are already overflowing with western unwanted goods.)
  4. They throw them away in a dumpster. (After making the clothes unusable by staining, cutting or similar so no one can have that fancy shirt for free.)
  5. They shred them and recycle the fabric into, for example, rugs.
  6. They burn them.

According to statistics from the World Resources Institute, it takes 2,700 liters of water to make a single cotton shirt and polyester production for textiles releases something like 1.5 trillion pounds of greenhouse gases yearly, all while 26 billion pounds of clothing end up in American landfills every year. Us consumers are responsible for throwing away plenty of clothes after we’ve worn them a few times, and we need to buy better, yes, but it is without a doubt that corporations are contributing huge amounts of waste to that number. (Do we need a #FashionRevolution? YES!)

I just bought the most amazing shirt at the Bloomingdale’s outlet. It’s a Helmut Lang made in Portugal, checkered, wool, button down shirt with some interesting details, like a frayed hem and a real pocket. I paid 88 dollars for this shirt, originally listed at $395.

So I am thinking, from an environmentalist’s stand point, that had I not bought this shirt – at the 78% discounted price – it would have ended up in a dumpster or burned. What are the chances that another size small woman, walking around the outlet, would want the same shirt, since it hadn’t already sold?

I don’t have the answer to this question. Which, of course, is why I am asking and rambling.

I love shopping clearance, like I said, and I’d like to think that it is better. If I were to buy the latest new shirt at H&M and they end up selling out real quick, wouldn’t they just order a similar batch as soon as possible? The rack doesn’t have that option.

On the other hand, outlets and clearances encourage impulse shopping, which leads to over consumption of goods – something I’m very much against.

Let me know what you think, please!

PS. My favorite way to buy new clothes is to do it from shops that produce upon order. The downside to that is that they’re available online only and I do love to actually browse and try on clothes now and then :)

Fashion Revolution week is important -here’s why and how to take a fashionable stand

It’s been a bit crunchy on the blog lately; plant based meals, recycling and Earth Day chit chat. Thankfully, the last week of “Earth Month” is Fashion Revolution week (April 23-29), so with that we have a good excuse to talk about clothes.

It’s funny because when we say “fashion revolution” we’re not mainly talking about shopping second hand or choosing sustainable fabrics, rather it’s about ethical labor, feminism and ending the extreme wealth inequality in this world.

fashion revolution week gap

Because I am Swedish I am guilty of (maybe) hating on H&M more than I should. Sure, they have a conscious collection, which is a step in the right direction (and super), however, I can’t applaud them yet because I know they could do so much more. Plus I feel like they could have started to make positive changes a long time ago. Not only to tackle environmental issues but for ensuring ethical treatment of workers. Do you think Stefan can afford it?

Stefan Persson, whose father founded H&M, is ranked 43 in the Forbes list of the richest people in the world, and received €658m ($917M) in share dividends last year. Meanwhile, a female garment worker in Bangladesh works 12 hours a day (no lunch break) and earns just over $900 dollars a year.

It’s not just H&M; Zara, Gap, and similar big clothing brands can do quite a bit more as well. We are not asking for perfection right now. We’re okay with a few polyester blouses in the fall lineup, we know there’ll be imports from the East. We ourselves are not perfect either. We’re simply asking the big players to make an honest effort when it comes to moving the fashion industry towards a more sustainable future.

This is why, this week, we ask them “Who made my clothes?”

Oxfam, a global non-profit organization that works to end injustice of poverty, just published a fascinating (yet sad) report about today’s current state when it comes to inequality in the supply chain. It’s called “Reward work, Not wealth” and I recommend you read it. I decided to share some of the statistics and findings here on the blog, in order to bring awareness to these issues and prove why we actually need a fashion revolution.

Oxfam report reward work, not wealth
Picture by Fashion Revolution

In Bangladesh, many young women working in garment factories suffer from repeated urinary tract infections because of not being allowed to go the toilet. (Similarly, a study by Oxfam of poultry workers in the United States found that they were wearing nappies, as they were not permitted to go to the toilet.)

New data from Credit Suisse shows that 42 people now own the same wealth as the bottom 3.7 billion people.

It would cost $2.2bn a year to increase the wages of all 2.5 million Vietnamese garment workers from the average wage to a living wage. This is the equivalent of a third of the amount paid out to shareholders by the top five companies in the garment sector.

Gender inequality is neither an accident nor new: our economies have been built by rich and powerful men for their own sake. The neoliberal economic model has made this worse – reductions in public services, cuts to taxes for the richest, and a race to the bottom on wages and labor rights have all hurt women more than men.

The International Labor Organization has estimated that 40 million people were enslaved in 2016, 25 million of them in forced labor.

We, the fashionistas, can be part of the change, by shopping with intent, researching brands before supporting them and reaching out to them through social media, emails or calls demanding transparent supply chains; fair wages, safe workplaces, eco-friendly materials, local sourcing. Initiatives like H&M’s Conscious Collection is proof that consumers like us indeed have the power to change industries by demanding change.

Which companies are you reaching out to this week?

Fashion Revolution is a global movement that runs all year long, not just on Fashion revolution week! Read more about the movement and the organization behind it at FashionRevolution.org.

The green blogger you need to know in the Deep South! (Earth Month special feature)

When most people talk about The South, ice tea, rich foods, hot sunny days and mosquitoes come to mind. Green living bloggers? Not so much.

No offense Southerners, but sustainability isn’t exactly your best trait. Oil lands, high consumption, fast food wrapped in plastic and running the truck’s AC constantly when parked do not sustainable make.

That said, there are always exceptions and good environmental stewards live everywhere, here too, trying to inspire change. I happen to know a woman in Louisiana doing just that. Not only did she invent the most brilliant hashtag ever #resuableisinstagrammable but she also lives green, writes a sustainability blog, bikes (a lot), picks up trash, recycles, composts and hugs trees (they all need some love!).

Meet Caitlin of Eco Cajun

Caitlin

Because it’s Earth Month and us green living bloggers are feeling the love, Caitlin and I decided to do a blog post swap – introducing each other to our respective blog audiences because we are both eco-warriors in The South!

Catlin has been blogging for almost 10 years (so impressive!) and she writes a column for a local newspaper, Times of Acadia, where she discusses environmental issues and promotes a healthy and green lifestyle.

This time, it’s my turn to write, and so I had some questions for the Eco Cajun of course…

When and why did you decide to start a green living blog?

“I originally started writing back in 2009 after getting more involved personally in my green efforts. I wanted to share what I was learning with others, and show them how simple it can be to make green changes in your life. I had bought my first stainless steel water bottle not long before (one which I still have and use today!), and had recently started using cloth grocery bags, and those were kind of the catalysts to me wanting to do more.”

What’s been one important or encouraging change you have seen around you in the south, or in family members and friends, that you know you have inspired them to make?

“I think what I get the most feedback about from family, friends and this online community is about skipping straws or investing in reusable ones! I’ve had a lot of people either say they are more conscious now about refusing straws at restaurants or tell me they purchased their own set for themselves and their families. I see more people using cloth grocery bags these days, but I don’t consider that from my influence, haha. It still makes me happy to see!”

reusable stainless steel straw

I always want to know this from fellow bloggers; Is there anything you miss in your day-to-day life since you became “green”?

“Probably impulse shopping, haha. Although I don’t miss it that much! Especially when it comes to clothing, I’ve gotten into a rhythm of shopping secondhand or eco-friendly brands online, rather than going to the mall.

Sometimes, I also wish it would be easier to dine out without having to worry about single-use containers/utensils/cups. Just recently, I picked up lunch with a coworker, and although my food came in a plastic container that I ended up recycling, I chose to skip the drink because there were only Styrofoam cups – and I was so thirsty while eating! Although it would’ve been easier to just take the cup, I stayed committed.”

(I have done that too! That’s a real struggle!)

If you could give the people reading this, one eco-friendly tip for how they can make a positive impact for Earth Month, what would it be?

“Focus more on ways to reduce your waste, rather than on recycling plastic/glass/cans. Invest in good reusable items for your home – I promise you will get used to toting them around! I’ve got a set of reusable utensils and straws in my purse at all times, and I can always be found with a reusable water bottle and/or coffee mug, haha. It does become habit, and it makes SUCH a big impact – even on an individual or family level.”

Catlin shared some exciting news earlier this month on her blog; she and her husband are expecting their first baby! She’ll be diving into cloth diapers, eco-friendly toys and second hand baby fashion soon. I am hoping Sustainable Anna (moí!) can continue to be a good resource as she plans for her little one.

There has been some talk among hardcore environmentalists about how not having kids is the best and most eco-friendly path for one to take, encouraging people to not reproduce to lower the carbon footprints of families. I asked Caitlin what her take on it was, now that she is pregnant, glowing and excited about the upcoming mini Eco Cajun.

“I think that it is true that having children increases your carbon footprint and your amount of waste. But to me, the decision of having or not having children involves a lot more than the environmental aspect. On my blog, I try to focus on the fact that you don’t have to live your life a certain way to be considered eco-friendly or zero-waste (like living off-grid, not having children, growing your own food and making your own clothing). You can make more eco-friendly or responsible decisions in aspects of your life and still have a positive impact on the environment. As I get ready to welcome our little one, it’s important for me to still focus on ways we can reduce waste, be minimalist, and shop secondhand. I am very excited to raise a little environmentalist, as well as grow our little family and keep our legacy going.”

Well said Caitlin! And I agree so much with that. Living life here on Earth can’t be 100% centered around lowering our carbon footprints, if it were, we’d all have to end it right now.

Speaking of ending it, let’s end this post by mentioning two of Caitlin’s favorite sustainable clothing brands, because we have to include some fashion :)

Amour Vert is probably my favorite eco brand – they utilize organic cotton and sustainable materials like modal, silk and linen. SSeko Designs is an ethical brand that helps empower women in Uganda!”

Thank you Eco Cajun! I love your blog and your positivity.

Instagram @ecocajun || Ecocajun.com

 

Time to completely DESTROY my reputation as a sustainable shopper!

Have you ever thought to yourself “Man, these eco bloggers sure are missing out”?

I have. Sometimes I wonder if zero waste warriors miss devouring the contents of an unrecyclable bag of chips or drinking a coffee they hadn’t planned for. I wonder if sustainable fashion bloggers secretly want that new coat from Banana Republic. I think some of them do, while others are so addicted to their green lifestyle that they’re all good just being green.

Me, I still get mad and sad when I am out browsing at Marshalls and all the nice cardigans are made by underpaid workers in China and Bangladesh; something I have decided not to support. Basically, I sometimes feel like I am missing out on wearing what I really want to wear.

“Go buy clothes second hand!” greenies will say. Sure, but, it’s just not the same. The stores aren’t as nice and the size options and variety isn’t there. It’s great for browsing and being spontaneous but harder for when you want specific things.

Here’s the deal. I am SUPER tired of my wardrobe. I have two shirts I love at the moment, one cardigan and maybe five tops that are “ok” with a scarf. I know I sound like a western brat, but do you feel me?

I am not 100% sure why this happened all of a sudden. It could be the pregnancy that changed my body a bit so clothes don’t fit right. Or it could be the blonder hair and the bangs (yay bangs!). Or that I am a mom now and my style has changed. Or that I changed jobs. Or that I watched American Horror Story Roanoke and now want to look like Sarah Paulson’s character. Or that during pregnancy I inherited a bunch on new-to-me clothes from my sister (which made me feel brand new and gorge) and then after baby I went back to all the same old stuff I’ve been wearing since 1863.

Let’s just say, I am on the lookout for new clothes! I cleaned out my closet AND I did something completely illegal. I bought the most unethical freaking awesome shoes ever.

Yes, I did.

Everyone knows the shoes change the outfit! I was so tired of only having winter boots, work-out sneakers (and by “work-out” this mama means weekend outings and walks with the stroller) and two pairs of ballerina shoes. I do have heels in my closet (pre 2013) and hiking shoes but I don’t wear those very often.

I did my research online; I looked at the websites of Amour Vert and dozens of other ethical, vegan, made in USA shoe stores. I didn’t find anything I liked, so I dragged my boys to the Ecco store, also known as Euro style heaven, instead.

Sneakers. Made in Indonesia. Leather. Plastic sole. [Insert panic emoji.]

I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THEM.

Black Ecco sneakers leather
My dad took this photo! So good!

I thought about naming this blog post “Sorry, not sorry” because that song kept playing in my head while I was thinking about what to write about these shoes. “Baby, I am sorry, I’m not sorry, being so bad got me feelin’ so good” most definitely describes this event. I haven’t regretted this buy for one second. I am not apologizing for not compromising and buying something ethical that wasn’t right for me either – that’s not really sustainable. I got what I wanted, and it wasn’t even made in China! Ha!

“Your shoes are so stylish” said my coworker. “Yeah, they are.”

(And comfortable I might add.)

I do think getting good quality things, that we love, has to be part of being sustainable too. It’s not like I’ll wear these to just one party (who has time for parties!?) and then toss.

So know this, friends. Living perfectly green is my goal, zero waste is a great thought, vegan, sustainable fashion is preferred, always doing my best is a must, yet I think I have the right (ooh, entitlement!) to feel like I am not always missing out.

What do you think?

Can I get a “yay” for new shoes?

PS. Not that I am trying to sell you these shoes, but Ecco isn’t the worst of companies when it comes to employee rights and environmental policies. You can read more here. Hopefully they’ll move towards using vegan leather soon!

Bye Bye made right (here) – HELLO Sustainable Anna (that’s me!)

New year, new ideas. The time has come to change the name of this blog.

When I started blogging in 2014, I had just embarked on a journey to change my life by reducing my consumption. So, naturally, I wrote about what I bought, what I didn’t (made in China!) and how everyone could join in to shop local and fair.

Four years later, it seems all I talk about is vegan food, my eco-baby and how much I hate plastic. Sure, there are local products at display but “Made right (here)” just doesn’t cut it anymore.

I’m sustainable. My name is Anna. And here I am; trying a new blog name that allows a broader index of subjects.

Sustainable Anna

I want to share more recipes (I have to write a post about all the wonderful things lentils can do ASAP!) and I want to be more me. When I say that I mean a bit more ramblings, fewer perfectly written articles. Though that may sound like a step in the wrong direction for someone who dreams about writing full time, I simply have less time to edit and research my blog posts with a baby/toddler in my life than I did a year ago!

I’ve also updated my About page and deleted/changed the Look Book. Who cares where I bought my clothes – right? Sustainable style is about finding YOUR STYLE and doing it ethically. Plus the Look Book had so many garments that I had bought several years ago, available then but no longer. Pointless. Of course, I’ll still write posts about clothes and brands when I buy something new :)

Welcome to “Sustainable Anna”. The Blog. The Woman. The Legend.

(Ok, that’s a joke.)

Let me know what you all think!

PS. Thank you Sandra for helping me decide on where to take the blog! Love you!

My premium crew T: It’s the cotton and the American made.

There’s nothing better than ordering something online and being pleasantly surprised by the quality, is there? So often we find ourselves in the opposite situation.

Lucky for me, buying mostly made in USA, my latest purchases have all been grand. That Tradlands’ flannel this winter, all the US-made cloth diapers for baby, and now, a green, cotton tee from American Giant.

I got this t-shirt on a bit of impulse, adding it to the cart as my husband was ordering two more of American Giant’s 100% cotton “fleece” workman’s jackets ($89). He had one and wanted another two (in other colors) simply because they fit great, work great, and look great. Though they call it fleece, which traditionally is made of polyester, these are made with a long fiber cotton that holds up during the yarning and knitting process with minimal breakage and produces a heavyweight, durable fabric. (And no plastic microfibers to worry about like with plastic fleece!)

My Premium Crew T is made from 100% slub cotton, sourced in the USA. “Slub” was originally considered a defect, caused by knotting in the yarn during the knitting process resulting in a uniquely textured look and feel. Slubs tend to be flimsy and transparent but the fabric used here is thicker than regular slub and not see-thru at all (yay!). At the same time it allows the shirt to actually be quite form fitted. I love it. It’s well made.

There’s also a surprise seam on the back that adds a bit of interest.

Made in USA high quality cotton t-shirt
Made in USA American Giant t-shirt

I envision wearing this tee with my beige blazer, black skinnies, Oka-B black flats and a necklace when I head back to work. For now, I am wearing it casually, out and about with baby. I wore it to the Overland Expo in Flagstaff a couple of weekends ago, and got some cute pictures of it.

Yes, I am holding an unsustainable one-time-use Sprite bottle (thirsty!), but I’m making up for it with my all US-made clothes and baby’s fashion is all second-hand. We did recycle that bottle at least! ;)

This comfy classic sells for $36.50 at AmericanGiant.com and they’ve got free returns! (I’m wearing a size S, I’m 5′ 8.5″, 140 lbs.)

Combining my two great loves: American-made fashion and stripes!

If you’ve been following along for a while, you know I have a special place in my heart for stripes.

That said, I haven’t bought that many new striped creations since I started shopping less, more sustainably and made in USA. There’s the Soft Joie dress, the Tart Collection dress and the second hand dress I scored in South Carolina to mention. Oh, and the striped hoodie from Marshalls and the Lularoe pencil skirt. However, not a single new striped t-shirt in three years?!

stripes
I’ve got stripes.

Sad as that may be (erm, not really!) I do know where to go when I “need” a new striped shirt fix. I’ll look no further than super sustainable Amour Vert.

Amour Vert is basically the definition of a sustainable fashion company. Not only focusing on eco-friendly materials, keeping it American-made and zero waste; they actually plant a tree in North America for every t-shirt (or top) sold. So far they have planted more than 100,000 trees thanks to the sales of their made right here tees!

dsc_4747
My friend Mary Beth in her American-made Amour Vert shirt

Amour Vert’s specially engineered textiles and blended fabrics are crafted to be soft, flattering and long-lasting. They only use low-impact and non-toxic dyes. Mary Beth’s tee ($78) is made of 95% eco-friendly modal, with 5% spandex for stretch.

You will find a few, carefully selected other brands on their website as well. I am little bit obsessed with the skinny jeans from STRÖM, I must admit. I have never bought a pair of jeans online, so I am hesitant to jump in considering the slim chances that a pair of slim jeans will fit like they do on the model… STRÖM is actually a Swedish/American brand (like me!) with a denim based, sustainable collection, produced exclusively in the United States.

dsc_4739

Incase you were wondering, Mary Beth paired her Amour Vert tee with hand-me-down, Frye leather boots (a great way to reduce eco-impact from leather is getting it second hand) and a pair of Paige Verdugo Skinny jeans from Nordstrom. The “Arrow Bar Necklace” is from an Etsy shop called Layered and Long and the “Hammered gold necklace” is from Etsy artist Freshy Fig. The wrist band is bought and made in Savannah, Georgia by leather crafters Satchel.

Yes! She’s rocking an outfit entirely made in USA – just how we like it.

This was the forth and last post in my series focusing on American-made style! Of course, this topic keeps coming back to made right (here) – that’s kind of the whole point of the blog ;)

I am happy Mary Beth wanted to share some American-made brands with us and I love that they were all photographed in a few super neat Houston locations by our lovely friend Ashley.

I hope you want to check out post number one (about another t-shirt), two (discussing leather goods) and three (a guide to US-made shopping in suburbia) too, if you haven’t already. And finally, I hope you’ve been inspired to shop more made in USA style in 2017! :)

My ultimate guide to shopping ethical and American-made style (OFFLINE!)

For anyone starting out on a Made in USA shopping journey, finding places to shop and brands to trust can be overwhelming. I know when I first started out I felt quite discouraged for a while, as it was difficult to find American-made clothes.

A few years later, and a gazillion online shops later, I know where to go for my next “Made in USA fix”. Mrs. American Made, a style blog, has guided me to many brands, so has random Instagram browsing. The question still remains though, what are some physical stores where we can find locally made clothes, shoes and décor?

Online shopping is great for supporting small businesses and of course very convenient, but sometimes it’s nice to shop down the street, isn’t it?

If you are lucky enough to live in a place that promotes local, like Boulder, CO or Asheville, NC, you’ll have access to small boutiques, fair-trade markets, apothecaries, vintage shops or brand stores like PrAna and Patagonia and you’re off to a good start. (NYC residents probably don’t need this list either!) However, many of us reside in more of a “big-box retailer” region so I’m sharing my favorite stores with that in mind! Anyone can succeed and master American-made shopping (even in the suburbs ;))!

1. The BEST store for Ethical Fashion and all around browsing: REI

Yes, the camping and outdoors giant is our favorite place to go browse and try on new clothes! REI carries brands like United by Blue, PrAna, Toad & Co and many more small batch, fair-trade, natural fiber options. They’ve also got a massive selection of great quality, made in USA socks, from Sockwell, Smart Wool, Thorlo and more. You’d be surprised how many of the camping and hiking essentials are actually made in USA as well! Here’s the store locator.

2. The BEST store for affordable Made in USA clothes: Nordstrom Rack

Here’s where I score all the best deals on American-made fashion. I’ve found sweaters, tops, dresses, jeans, sweatpants, undies and more by digging through the store and the clearance rack. Anything from $60 Citizen of Humanity jeans (!) to $10 Hanky Panky underwear – they’ve got it. Ever thought you’d run into a jumpsuit, or romper, sewn in the USA? Well, my friend Mary Beth did. Succeeding here does require some energy as stores tend to be overflowing with options. Here’s the store locator.

Made in USA romper
Mary Beth in Loveappella Romper, Made in USA, from Nordstrom Rack

3. The BEST store for high quality home decor and furniture: Crate & Barrel

I know it’s on the pricier side of things, but we haven’t bought anything at Crate & Barrel that broke or disappointed us. They’ve got lots of made in USA kitchen gear, decor and furniture, as well as beautiful glassware from Europe. We got our king size bed frame from there, it was built and upholstered in North Carolina and made to order. Here’s the store locator.

4. The BEST store for American-stitched denim: Last Call by Neiman Marcus

Splendid, AG jeans, Paige, 7, True Religion, Eileen Fisher, J brand, rag & bone and several others – Last Call has most of these brands available at all times and the majority of their denim is sewn in the USA! You’ll also get a much better deal here than shopping at the mall or online. I am not the type to order jeans online – trying them on is a must. Even the same brand and style, to me, fit differently depending on the fabric and wash. Here’s the store locator.

Made in USA denim where to shop
US-made Splendid denim shirt with Alice & Olivia jeans (+ wind in the hair!)

5. The BEST place to go browsing and spend all day: Premium Outlets

You might get lucky at Premium Outlets and get a good deal on made in USA items at New Balance, 7 for all mankind, Tory Burch (some jewelry is US-made!), Saks off 5th or True Religion. The downside is you might NOT and end up spending the whole day, only to find nothing but sweatshop made clothes at Banana Republic and Chinese leather bags at Coach… (don’t buy them!) It’s worth a try if you keep an open mind and if you’re in that “shop all day mood”. Here’s the outlet locator.

Phew! These are my top five! Which ones are yours?

Shopping Made in USA doesn’t have to be complicated just because it’s happening offline! Try it out, let me know what you find :)

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This is the third post in a four post series focusing on American-made style, featuring pictures of my friend Mary Beth in her own locally made clothes, photographed in some neat Houston locations by our friend Ashley. Check out my previous posts in the series about an LA-made t-shirt here and a great read on domestic leathers  here.

Because the trendiest (and best) eyewear is handcrafted STATE-side

When I wrote about and modeled my new Tradlands flannel shirt back in December, you might have noticed that my (awesome looking) glasses also appeared to be brand spanking new. You were right, they were.

State optical ravenswood frame

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been talking about American-made style here on the blog. Why? Because shopping local strengthens our economy, helps small businesses grow and is actually more environmentally friendly than importing goods from far away.

When it comes to clothes, I hope you’re starting to realize that there is an abundance of made in USA brands out there. However, although many great handmade accessories (bags, jewelry, boots) can be found, some items are harder to find than others.

One thing that came to bite me before on my “Not made in China challenge” was eyewear.

Eyeglass frames are VERY often made in China or at least, rarely made in USA. So, in order to not shop for sweatshop-made imports, I had been wearing the same old, made in China Oakleys since April 2013! My friend, who happens to co-own an optician store, told me it was time for me to up my style with a new, ethically made pair from a “just-in” designer line of frames.

Meet STATE Optical. Luxury eyewear, handcrafted in Chicago, Illinois.

Handcrafting frames at State Optical
Handmade by American craftsmen. Here, the STATE logo (Pic by STATE).

As I am writing this, there are 18 styles for optical frames and six different sunglass frames to chose from. All styles are named after the streets of the Windy City and come in four different colors.

I am wearing the Ravenswood frame in Granite, and do I need to mention how trendy they make me look? (These are the kind of frames an aspiring writer should be wearing! I feel very editorial.) The color of the frame is modern yet subtle and goes well with all my clothes.

“Named for the Ravenswood Land Company who originally planned the area around the thoroughfare as Chicago’s first suburb, Ravenswood Ave is now home to art centers, non-profits, some of the best pizza in the city, brewhouses, you name it. This style evokes the same vibe, worldly yet laid back.

State optical Ravenswood frame
“Worldly, yet laid-back”.

I’ve had my frames for about two months, and so far I LOVE them.

I am especially impressed by the fact that I haven’t felt them get “looser” over time. Anyone who wears glasses knows that the most annoying thing about it is to constantly correct them, push them up the nose, because they loosen and become too big with wear. STATE uses a unique German designed and manufactured custom hinge, with a nylon sleeve around the screw that allows a locking effect which should prevent the temples from loosening over time. Judging by my own experience it definitely seems to be working.

Custom hinge. STATE brand logo.
Custom hinge. STATE brand logo.

Founded in 2014, STATE Optical Co., in their own words, “Is a brand fueled by an intrinsic motivation to accomplish the improbable and blaze its own path despite evidence that “it can’t be done”. Of course, referring to the idea that manufacturing in the United States is an impossible feat.

Well, they, like so many other wonderful, small business brands I promote and love, are proving that indeed it CAN be done – with great success, better materials, more advanced techniques, superior craftsmanship and elevated attention to detail.

Handmade in USA is here to stay.

Check out STATE and their story at StateOptical.com and find a retailer near you. I got mine at Optical Edge, Houston, TX. Frames are $300+.

Note: Prescription lenses are readily available Made in USA! Just ask your optician before she cuts them for you, to make sure.

A look at Patagonia (with thoughts from a not made in China shopper)

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!

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Eco-baby’s only (so far) non-second hand tee.

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.

When it comes to leather – does it really matter if it’s “American-made”?

Some readers will see this gorgeous bag and think “Oh, look at that FABULOUS, made in USA leather bag!” while, others will say, or more like grunt, “Why is a self-proclaimed environmentalist showing a leather bag on an eco-blog? Yuck!!”

Hear, hear.

Leather is not exactly an eco-friendly material (more on that later), so why am I blogging about a bag made of just that?

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Satchel: Handcrafted in Georgia. Worn well in Texas.

Easy. Because I hate seeing individual and stylish women go to Coach, Michael Kors, Fossil or Cole Haan and end up with the same Chinese-made bag everyone else has. This blog is a space of options, and when I say that I mean a space where I am trying to help consumers make better choices. Is an American-made, small business, handcrafted, locally grown leather bag a better choice than an imported Coach bag is? Absolutely!

This one is my friend Mary Beth’s and made by Satchel: three female artisans in a small Savannah, Georgia design studio, handcrafting leather goods and custom handbags. If you’re interested, you’ll have to call and place an order. Though there are some styles in their studio for sale, nothing is “ready to buy” online.

It’s always good to have an excuse to talk about leather too, isn’t it? Ever thought about what the word actually means? Us humans are good at coming up with words that distance us from what we’re actually dealing with. Kind of like how we eat “beef” not cows and “pork” not pigs. Current generations are farther removed from nature than ever before, so it makes sense that when we talk about animal skins or hides, we just call it “leather”.

Leather is the processed and polished version of the skin of the animal, the end result if you will. It’s important to remember that as a conscious consumer.

You may have run into companies that handcraft their goods in USA of Italian leather? Italian leather is known to be good quality and it has a nice ring to it, so businesses like to flaunt it, however the animal that became that “Italian leather” may have emigrated after death; it could have come from any other country, but it was processed in Italy. So, in other words, we have no idea where the hide came from (China? India?).

What we are looking for as conscious consumers in the USA, are key words like “native” or “domestic” hides. Some small businesses will be open about their sources and proudly promise to only use domestics. Cattle is not slaughtered for hides in USA but for cow-meat (see what I did there?), so essentially with current demand, domestic hides are a byproduct of the beef and dairy industry.

It’s hard to argue about or measure a byproduct’s impact on the environment. “Since beef is bad for the environment and its production contributes excessively to climate change, then cow skin must be also” sounds like too easy of a conclusion. Do the fashionistas consume more skin than the steak eaters left behind? No way! But, in many cases the livestock owner gets paid more for the skin than any other part of the animal. What does that mean for the argument? And, what about when animals (other than cows or cows in other countries) are raised for their skin or fur alone? Well, then we have a whole new set of ethics and environmental impact to consider, don’t we?

The processing or “tanning” (what turns “skin” into “leather”) on the other hand is extremely toxic and for that reason alone; leather is indeed a bad eco-choice. No matter where it’s from.

Vegetable tanning is probably the least environmentally damaging process and you’ll see some brands promise that their leather has been tanned that way (it’s expensive though, not stable in water and can discolor over time), however 90% of hides are tanned using chrome (think Erin Brockovich!). That’s what leads to toxic rivers and polluted lands, as well as serious birth defects and cancers in countries with lax regulations, like India and China. (Make no mistake, chrome tanning is used everywhere, here too, it just pollutes a little bit less where laws are stricter!) Processing one ton of skin produces up to 80 cubic meters of waste water, with high levels of chromium, sulfides, fat and other solid wastes, and notable pathogen contamination. Producers often add pesticides to protect hides during transport as well.

Satchel grey leather handbag

Leather bags and shoes last a long time, and despite the fact that leather biodegrades faster than plastic, which is good, I don’t see either product group disappearing anytime soon. That’s why I love to take the opportunity to talk about this, present some facts that might help a reader out who is looking for a new leather bag. There are small businesses out there offering small batch, American-made styles. A bag like this one from Satchel can be yours for around $250 to $300, pretty much the same price as the imported bags sell for. (I’ll have to blog about vegan handbags soon!)

Personally my leather bag shopping days are over. I have a black one (bought in ’07), a brown one (’09) and a blue one (’13) that I am sure will last forever. New boots or leather seats in a new car? Very likely to happen in my life still. It’s a journey. We’re on our way to having mainstream plant-based, “just-as-nice” alternatives to animal leather, but the market is not quite there yet. In the meantime, I will shop locally grown, well-chosen and only when absolutely necessary.

The sweater Mary Beth is wearing, if you are wondering, is by Tea N’ Rose, from its boho-chic Orange Creek premium line. (I LOVE the elbow patches!) Tea N’ Rose is not committed to American-made clothing, though the style we are showing off is, of course, made in USA.

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This is the second post in a four post series focusing on American-made style featuring the beautiful Mary Beth in her own locally made clothes, photographed in some neat Houston locations by our friend Ashley. Check out last week’s post on a cool t-shirt HERE.

2017 American-made style starts with a statement t-shirt

With a brand new year, full of hope and promises (right?), comes a brand new opportunity for everyone (you too!) to start shopping better.

More sustainable. More locally made. Less stuff. Better quality.

And with that said, time has come to promote some new Made in USA clothes and accessories here on the blog, just like I did last winter with my five-piece made in USA styles series. You may remember the discussions we had about polyester and imported fabrics, the gorgeous Texas-made knitted earrings, and that made in USA outfit we put together.

Since my baby bump is becoming more planet-like by the hour, thankfully, my dear friend Mary Beth agreed to model and contribute to the series once again. See, this lovely lady was so inspired by this little blog of mine that she decided last year that if the fashion isn’t made in USA, it simply isn’t worth buying. The result? She’s bought ONLY American-made clothes, bags, accessories and jewelry since her last appearance on the blog. Quite impressive, isn’t it?! Getting to inspire others is WHY I BLOG, so thanks MB!

Now, let’s get down to business and talk about the first American-made garment we picked for the blog – a statement tee from Good hYOUman.

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Mary Beth in her “See you tomorrow” tee from Good hYOUman – Made in USA

I love that we’re starting with this brand because Mary Beth is such a good human.

This company, based out in LA (of course) is all about delivering high quality basics, giving back to the community and manufacturing ALL its products in the United States of America.

They’ve got tanks, tees, sweatshirts and sports bras for women; beanies, short- and long sleeved shirts for men and onesies and tops for the kiddos. Most tees are cotton/modal blends or 100% cotton which make for great eco-friendly picks. They do have some polyester mixes as well, but it’s all stated clearly on the website so you can easily manage your choice of fabric. Transparency is how we like it.

They can be found in smaller boutiques all over the USA (check out the store locator) and of course you can shop on online at GoodhYOUman.com – domestic shipping is free!

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T-shirts sell for $40 to $48, and sweatshirts are in the $60 to $85 range.

Go check out Good hYOUman and come back and see us soon as I’ve got more Made in USA fashion posts coming! This is the first post in a four post series focusing on American-made style, all featuring the beautiful Mary Beth in her own locally made clothes, photographed in some neat Houston locations by our lovely friend Ashley.

3 YEARS on the Not Made in China Challenge, and the reviews are in!

Today is my three-year anniversary of the Not Made in China Challenge!

For three years I’ve been shopping less, shopping better, reading tags and investigating brands and products to a T. I was hoping that 2016 would be the year I bought zero made in China items, and it was looking promising, but in the end, I did buy ONE thing made in China.

See, while I was in Sweden this fall to meet my nephew, I saw, and fell in love with a Swedish-made stroller. Think all recyclable materials sourced from sustainable European companies, linen fabric, Oeko-Tex certified mattress, great quality and beyond stylish. (Maybe eco-baby and I can model it for the blog this spring!)

When I bought it, I asked in the store how people transport strollers on airplanes (I had no idea) and I was told they either ship it in the box, buy a stroller bag or rent a case at the airport. I LOVE renting since it’s a great way to reuse and reduce, however I soon found out that the airport rental company doesn’t allow their cases on cross-Atlantic flights.

Buying a stroller bag became my only option, and yes, the top rated one (from Stokke) is made of polyester and plastic in China. I wanted to protect my eco-stroller so I ended up getting that bag. (Hoping that it wasn’t made in a sweat-shop factory fueled by a coal plant!)

As I was drafting my blog post about this “felony” of mine and coming up with all sorts of excuses, Trump was elected president of the United States of America. It was a rough week for me, and I figured y’all probably didn’t need more bad news, so I decided to keep it to myself at the time. Trump won and Anna went China-shopping?

Anyway, I decided way back when I started the challenge that for every China purchase made, I’d donate the same amount to charity and with that, I got to give a nice chunk of cash to the Sierra Club.

Other than that ONE felony and Donald winning the election, it’s been a good eco-year. Is it just me, or are people talking more than ever about climate change, solar power (it’s now the cheapest form of energy!), trash in the ocean and reduced meat consumption?! Are people finally waking up?!

Personally, I’ve managed to reduce my foot-print further in 2016 by shopping less (thanks to the 12 months 12 pieces challenge), eating mostly vegan food, starting a compost, leasing an electric vehicle and buying the things I needed second hand.

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YAY! For rocking the Not Made in China Challenge and sustainable pregnancy style!

On another three-year anniversary note; I love blogging! How lucky am I that people are reading?

Nothing is more awesome than when you tell me that I’ve inspired you to bring bags to the store, shop all your fashion made in USA or that I helped you discover the awesomeness of Bernie Sanders.

Hearing things like that makes me feel like I am doing something to help combat climate change, spread awareness and help the environment. Hubby has been spreading his own eco-message this year by giving rides in the Tesla (while he talks about solar power and Elon Musk) and we’ve actually noticed that colleagues and friends are opening up to the idea of an electric vehicle because of it. This is oil-fueled Texas so it takes time, but we’re in it for the long-haul. After all, we can make all the sustainable changes in the world in our own life, but if we don’t inspire others to do the same, our impact is very small.

tesla
The mean machine. It runs on green energy and it’s FANTASTIC.

So, thank you all for following along and reading made right (here) this year! I’m hoping you will stick around for 2017, where I’ll continue blogging, fighting climate change, reducing my waste and shopping eco-friendly and MADE IN USA for our home, for our new tiny addition (coming soon), and most importantly, for myself.

Remember, The Not Made in China Challenge is not only about China. It’s about knowing where your possessions come from, how they were produced and how they affect our planet. We all need to process that knowledge and take it seriously.

What you choose to buy or not to buy is your vote and your impact on the world market.

Vote made right (here) :)

My Tradlands flannel shirt: American craftsmanship at its best

I’ve bought something VERY special.

And no, it’s not maternity wear.

I decided early on in my pregnancy to limit buying maternity clothes as much as possible and instead try to master pregnancy style using pretty much only my regular clothes and a few, versatile, basic hand-me-downs (thanks sis!). It’s worked out pretty well so far, and with that, left room in the budget for other clothes.

Christina El Moussa (of HGTV’s Flip or Flop) has been my number one pregnancy style inspiration. While she was pregnant with their second kid last year, she kept rocking outfits that fit her growing belly, showed it off even, but was never centered around it. One of my favorite looks of hers was the open plaid shirt, white top, boots and skinny jeans.

Time has come to introduce my new (lovely) flannel.

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Made in the USA by a small company called Tradlands.

I am not often at a loss for words (blogger!), but when I first tried this shirt on at home (after it came in the mail) all I could say was “wow”. Followed by some more wows. Since I started the challenge almost three years ago, I haven’t encountered any American-made clothes as nice as this. This is the most beautifully crafted garment you can imagine. The flannel is thick and 100% cotton. The seams are flawless and the colors are vibrant and deep.

The shirt fits just like I was hoping it would. Of course I can’t button it over the bump, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to ;). Going by Tradlands’ online size guide, I’d be an XS which also matches the size of most button-up shirts I have in my closet. And here’s something amazing: my arms are monkey-style and rarely does an XS shirt have sleeves long enough for me, but this one does. Another wow.

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Tradlands offers a wide range of women’s button-up shirts, everything from dress shirts for the office to heavier outdoor flannels like mine. They’ve also got some gorgeous sweaters. Many styles are made from organic cotton!

This amazing shirt sells for $167 online. I had a coupon code and ended up paying only $142 (free shipping and returns!). I almost regret using the coupon now. Had I known the excellence in craftsmanship, I would have been more than willing to pay full price to support the company. That’s what this challenge is all about after all, spending my money where it makes a difference.

This is an investment piece. A garment to keep forever. And the last thing I am buying myself in 2016. Ending on a high note!

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Tradlands’ “Tailgate” Flannel, 100% cotton, Made in USA

In case you were wondering; the boots are old, the top and the skinny jeans are hand-me-downs from my sister. The jeans are actually made in USA too by AG Jeans!

The AMAZING glasses? Yes, they’re made right here and blog post coming soon!

NOTE: After this post was published, Tradlands.com has started to produce some garments at international production sites (China, Vietnam). Check the labels. Unfortunately this “Made in USA company” may have deserted their original patriotism.

Pics by Miss Shutterluv of course.

New scarf, leftover fabric: A beautiful (birthday) combination

My husband got me this beautiful scarf for my birthday. A little bird had told him that I really, really wanted it. (Guess who!).

Birthdays are awesome. Especially so if you are on a one item per month shopping challenge, since a well chosen gift just doubled your monthly fun. (That’s me.)

Now, this scarf is very special. Not only is the New York designer who made it committed to American manufacturing, but most garments Tabii Just offers is sewn from scrap fabrics. Yes!  The most beautiful discarded yardage from American mills and designers that would otherwise end up in landfill (or maybe once in a blue moon be recycled/downcycled). A great way to reduce a garment’s carbon footprint!

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Due to the fact that fabrics are “leftovers”, quantities of some styles are limited and the exact fabric content is not always known. The most common threads made locally are rayon, polyester and conventionally grown cotton, so one or more of those most likely. I actually shot Tabii an email and asked, and the owner replied that my scarf is some sort of rayon blend. The ball hem is “new” and made ethically by artisans in Mexico.

As we’re talking about a piece of clothing made from scrap material, the rayon’s biggest eco-issue in this case becomes the microfibers released when washing, but I don’t really wash my scarfs a whole lot ;)

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Another way Tabii Just is focusing on zero waste is by making patterns and designs with minimal scrap and cut-outs. And of course, a scarf is actually the ultimate zero waste item since, well, it’s basically just a square of fabric!

I am super excited to spend colder fall and winter days in this scarf. Happy birthday to me indeed.

Tabii Just is a member of the Made in America Movement.