Tag Archives: Made in USA

My new iPhone case was Carved in wood – right here (in Indiana)

Let’s talk cellphone cases!

Just because our phones are manufactured by underpaid factory workers (who can never afford to own the phones they make) and imported from China doesn’t mean our cases have to be. Right?

I finally had to admit that my iPhone 5 was on its last term this winter and accept an upgrade from my employer. My phone had been sleeping spontaneously from time to time and I kept running out of storage space, even though I am very good with transferring and deleting pictures. A good thing at least, from an environmental standpoint, is that I skipped the iPhone 6 all together and went straight to the 7. Every phone upgrade takes a toll on the environment you know (mined raw materials, electronic waste, import fuels, sweatshop labor).

Now back to talking cases! Made in USA is a must; eco-friendly a need. Neither myself nor hubby wanted to have one of those full-on-plastic-armor style cases (which are possible to find US-made) but were looking for something more slim and chic.

We found Carved.

Carved phone case packaging
Super cool, eco-friendly packaging

All Carved cases are handmade in Indiana by talented craftsmen and women. Reclaimed woods (like old skateboards!) or already fallen trees become the most beautiful, unique, wood cellphone cases. 

A cool detail is that they’re using a clear epoxy around the wood inlay, which shows off the color of the iPhone underneath. Since I finally have the rose gold, I was delighted that I didn’t have to cover that up.

I went for the Mount Bierstadt style ($39); it reminds me of some of our trips to America’s national parks and its colors go well with my phone, while hubs went for a sleek and classic walnut back ($24) for his matte black cellphone.

Carved phone case
Love this handmade in USA case! Mount Bierstadt design by Carved.com

Our cases were made by Carved upon order (no wasteful stock!) and shipped to us for free in 100% plastic-free packaging. Yay.

Any complaints from this eco-friendly, not made in China shopper? None! Both me and my husband love the cases we picked. (He dropped his phone on the pavement already with no damage to it, just a small, internal crack line in the case’s epoxy liner. I dropped mine last week (maneuvering the baby!) and it survived without any damage.)

It may be a bit early, but isn’t this the perfect Father’s Day (or Mother’s Day) gift? Very reasonably priced ($24 and up), made right here and both a “nice to have” and “need to have” item. You can make it even more personal by ordering a custom carve that you design yourself (using their handy online program) or you can upload your own logo or picture to have your cover be totally one of a kind. You aren’t getting that at the Apple Store, are ya?

Check them out or you’re missing out ;)

Rocking a compost (when your thumbs don’t know green!)

We’re finally composting!

Anyone who knows me, knows that my thumbs are a color not even remotely related to green. Just ask my mom if I’ve ever watered her plants correctly or ask my dad if I did a “great job” mowing the lawn, summer of 2000. That’s why I am so excited and proud to be rocking my backyard compost!

I decided that a proper compost was the next thing we needed to implement in our daily routine in order to handle our family’s waste better and living a greener life. Reading zero waste blogs, by people who are like experts in the matter, inspired me so much to get this done!

For the longest time we’ve been all about reusables, recycling, bulk buying and BYO bags so my husband and I hardly ever took out the trash (I’m also an expert at turning leftovers into new meals). We were also letting living in Houston hold us back – so humid, so many possums we feared – would a compost work? But it was just us being lazy, dragging our feet, and making excuses! Fall 2016 – we got down to business.

Here it is. My soil factory!

Made in USA Envirocycle tumbler composter
Made in USA Envirocycle composter

What do we compost?

A compost should consist of about 75% green material and 25% brown. The green is ALL the food scraps and grass (except meat and bones if we ever have that) and the brown is the paper towels, toilet rolls and dry leaves. I don’t pay too much attention to my compost “mix” at the moment. I am just filling it with kitchen scraps and watching it all decompose. If your compost seems “wet” you need to add more browns.

Why do we compost?

It’s important to compost because even the “natural” waste we throw in our kitchen bins cannot decompose in a landfill. All bio products need oxygen (air) to do so, and if none present, which is the case in landfills, all you’ll have is trash build up (that’ll last forever) causing methane emissions. Even if you use bio-degradable bags, food scraps will NEVER become soil in a landfill. About 20% of human methane (powerful greenhouse gas) emissions in USA come from waste decomposition!

The CO2 created in a compost is negligible in comparison and is part of a natural system of turning food into soil. After you’ve had a compost for a while, you end up with fertile, rich soil you can sprinkle in your yard or use to plant flowers or veggies. (Or even sell to hobby-gardeners who don’t compost themselves!)

How do we compost?

I am lazy. I need pre-made comfort. So, we use two tumbler type compost bins from Envirocycle. These little guys come pre-assembled, in a box, so the effort is minimal (hurray!). I got them online and yes, off course they’re made in the USA!

The Envirocycle compost is rust-protected, BPA free, and comes with a five-year warranty. Most importantly the design is small, modern-looking, possum free and easy to use, even for a garden disaster like me. We fill one up (for about 2-3 months), rotate the drum every 3-4 days, and then watch the trash turn to black soil, while we fill up the other. It came as a total surprise to me how fast the smell inside the tumbler goes from “trash” to the smell of the rich dirt I remember from playing outside in my childhood. Black gold. Thumbs up.

We also collect compost tea in the bottom of the compost, which we use as fertilizer for indoor plants. The large tumbler is $229 and the small is $169.(We bought the small one first to try the system, then added a second one when I figured out how I wanted to do it. The larger tumbler does roll a lot better than the small one does. Read more at Envirocycle.com.)

Inside, we use an air-tight Tupperware for collecting the greens and a large open bowl for the browns. We decided to just use containers we already had at home. Every few days, or up to a week sometimes, I empty them outside in the compost.

There are lots of ways to rock an eco-friendly compost bin and reduce kitchen waste; anything from fancy indoor compost systems like the Zera Food Recycler to classic outside worm bins. Search online, check zero waste blogs, and I am sure you’ll find a system that works for your family too.

If we can do it – you can do it!

Checklist: Five easy steps to becoming a conscious consumer

Ever wondered what goes on inside the head of a conscious consumer? Maybe you consider yourself to be one or maybe you are well aware that you’re quite the impulse shopper, buying things without really thinking it through. 

No matter which group of people you belong to, let me tell you that conscious shopping is quite the process!

I consider myself an extremely conscious consumer. I may be taking it a bit too far sometimes. Anyway, I decided I should write a post about what happens inside my head when I shop. Write down all the steps, for your entertainment ;).

One purchase that I am particularly excited about is our new thermometer! Since it’s a must to have one when you have a new baby (so we read) we figured we better get one sooner rather than later. It so happened that I had been given a Babies R’ Us $25 gift card, so I decided I’d go there first. What else would I possibly be buying at Babies R’ Us? (Also known as China-central.)

Here we go. Here are all the steps I went through at the store, picking out our PERFECT thermometer. My brain works overtime. Just to be clear, these five steps apply to all items I buy!

Step one: Check which options are not made in China.

This is a great start because it normally eliminates nine out of ten options! (Sometimes it eliminates all options, in which case we are entering the “challenge” part of the concious consumer thing). No different this time, I did the tag-check and it eliminated all but two thermometers. Great!

Step two: Contemplate the origin of manufacture for the remaining options.

After the China-check, the choice came down to a Braun in-ear thermometer “Made in Mexico” or an Exergen temporal artery thermometer “Assembled in USA”.

First I considered the transport; it’s a big deal to me how far my purchases travel. Since I’m in Texas, the Mexican one could in fact be more locally made than the US one, but my guess would be they’re about the same. (I looked up Exergen when I got home and I think it came from Massachusetts.)

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What about the “assembled” in USA versus “made” in Mexico part? Well, it doesn’t actually tell us that one is more local than the other; it’s just a matter of label laws! The Mexican one can very well be made of the same imported (Asian) parts as the one assembled in USA was. Here stateside, companies must use the phrase “assembled” when foreign pieces are used as part of the product. The Mexican thermometer on the other hand, because it was exported here, may very well be labeled “made” in Mexico even if many parts were imported to Mexico before assembly. Make sense?

What I do know is that the Exergen thermometer was assembled, packaged and tested in USA, which means that this product has provided some various level jobs here. I like that. In 2015 the US trade deficit with Mexico was over $60 billion, as we imported over $296 billion’s worth in Mexican-made products. No real need for me to “add” to that number either.

Step three: Decide which item has the most eco-friendly packaging.

Here’s where I got super excited! The Exergen thermometer was packaged completely without plastic! All cardboard! Yes, plastic-free! That practically NEVER happens. The Braun on the other hand came in a clear, hard molded plastic packet. Easy peasy choice!

Step four: Consider if the products are equal when it comes to functionality.

I didn’t have a clear preference when it came to function, I figured they would both get the job done. Both also proudly showed off similar “recommended by pediatricians” statements. The in-ear thermometer did come with disposable plastic in-ear shields (not sure what to call them or if they need to be used) which seemed wasteful to me while the other one had no disposable parts. Both had a common type battery; one we can buy partly recycled and also recycle after.

Step five: Figure out which is the better deal.

Yes, price is often the last thing I consider when shopping! In this case, the Braun, the one already losing this race, was actually more expensive! It was around $55, while the Exergen cost only $35. Slam dunk!

That’s it! Selection done.

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Exergen thermometer – assembled, tested, packaged right here.

The clear winner was the Exergen. I bought it and we’re so happy with it – although we haven’t actually tested it on a baby yet (only on hubs!) ;)

Conscious consumption takes a bit of thought, but when you succeed and feel content you made the BEST possible choice for the environment and yourself, there’s NO better reward.

Now, if you made it through this entire post; are you a conscious consumer or an impulse shopper?

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.

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) :)

EVERYTHING I bought myself in 2016: The list, the goods, the made in USA

In 2016 I decided to take the not made in China challenge one step further by establishing some shopping rules and limiting my shopping. More specifically I wanted to focus my energy and hard-earned cash on eco-friendly, locally made products and limit myself to purchasing a maximum of ONE new item for myself per month.

A year later, and only a few items richer, this challenge has created a lot of awareness and made me realize how content and happy I am treating myself very rarely. Researching and contemplating what to buy ahead of time, instead of falling for impulse purchases, has helped me pick items I will use a lot and not regret later. Limiting my shopping for new things has also helped me be more open to second hand clothing – which was one of my goals for the year as well.

I know what you all want to know; after a whole year, what kind of items did I end up with and how much money did I actually spend?!

It was easy to compile the list! For starters I have been keeping track here on the blog and let’s be honest, there are not very many items to keep track of!

First, the fashion.

The average American buys 68 garments per year and only 2.5% of them are made in USA. Here are mine:

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  1. A made in USA, small business, cotton tote bag ($24) from SeltzerGoods.com.
  2. An Italian designer sweater ($199) that I picked up at Century 21 in New York City.
  3. Another pair of recyclable, vegan, made in Georgia ballet flats ($45) from Oka-b.com.
  4. A super cute made in USA, modal dress (only $22) from Via74.com.
  5. Super comfy made in Los Angeles, modal maternity tights and nursing bra ($60 + $45) from Storq.com.
  6. A perfect, American-made, flannel shirt ($142) from Tradlands.com.
  7. My birthday bonus, a NYC-made, zero waste scarf ($60) from Tabiijust.com.

Total spending: $597.

Second, all the other “fun to have” purchases.

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  1. Reusable, recycled aluminum water bottle, made in Washington state ($23) from LibertyBottleWorks.com. I bought one, and my husband surprised me with one, so I actually have two.
  2. Reusable, organic cotton, made in USA, make-up remover wipes ($12) from Skindeepnaturals.com. Not sure this classifies as a “fun to have” purchase, it’s a trash saver! But it was the only thing I got in February.
  3. Adult coloring book, made in Canada ($14), which I got at Barnes & Noble.

Total spending: $49.

Of course, in addition to the above I’ve bought eco-freindly, American-made body products like shampoo and I got a new pair of compression socks (doctors’s orders!). I also spent $105 on second hand treasures (two blouses, a sweater, a dress and a broche).

That’s it!

I am pretty impressed with my selection and determination this year. Only two imported items (one from Canada so not that far away). Keep in mind I’ve done this challenge despite getting pregnant and a large chunk of my wardrobe miraculously shrinking. Applause please! Thank you!

How did you do? Do you actually know how much money you spent this year on new, “nice to have” items for yourself? If you are unsure, and feel like you went a bit overboard this year, I encourage you to do the 12 months – 12 pieces challenge in 2017!

As for me, I don’t think I need to do the challenge again next year. I’ve gotten used to not shopping and I have a feeling I’ll be pretty busy keeping the baby alive so shopping too much for myself will probably not be an issue ;)

Reducing our consumption is key to living a sustainable life and fighting climate change!

Your guide to excellent, sustainable, made right (here) gifts – from companies against bigotry

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.

Cat stripes Cotton tote bag
My made in USA, cotton tote-bag from Seltzer Goods

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.

8. Tradlands

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.

State optical glasses tradlands shirt
My Made in USA, cotton flannel from Tradlands

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.

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.

How one woman (ME!) is reclaiming ‘Made in the USA’

I believe most bloggers write in order to inspire change, share important information or simply to brighten someone’s day with an uplifting post. As for me, you all know I write with the hopes that my posts will inspire readers and friends to make easy, eco-friendly changes in their lives. No one has to be perfect, but surely there are things all of us can improve upon.

The most exciting thing when you’re a blogger is when someone finds you in this cyber universe and let’s you know that they enjoy what you’re writing about! Awesomely, The Alliance of Americans for America (aoafa.com) approached me a while ago and asked if they could write an article about me and my efforts towards green-living and buying made in USA on their blog. Of course I said “YES!”.

A few weeks later, they posted a very nicely written article on their website, beginning with:

“Every single one of us is faced with making thousands of decisions every day. But what if instead of going through the motions, you made conscious choices – even the smallest changes – to positively impact the economy and the environment?

YES! They certainly “got it”. I was super excited to read what they wrote because even though their site evolves around American manufacturing and bringing jobs home, they talked quite a bit about the environmental aspects of my blog too, like how I aim to buy ethically made, zero waste products and how I believe we all can make simple changes to live more sustainably. Another YES!

Houston-based lifestyle blogger, Anna, decided to create made right (here), a website detailing her journey committing to these choices. In January of 2014, Anna realized she’d had enough of America’s overconsumption of cheaply and unethically made goods. She began The Not Made in China Challenge, swearing off all products manufactured in China, and vowing to buy eco-friendly, ethical, zero-waste, and American-made products whenever possible.”

“Common themes across categories include reducing consumption, checking tags for product and shipping information, and using just what you need – not what you want. By making small adjustments in each of these areas, Anna says, we can reduce our carbon footprint and help the planet.”

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I don’t have a very big audience, yet a GREAT one (thank YOU for reading!) so to get an article published about made right (here) was super awesome :)

If you’re up for it, you can read the entire post HERE.

Growing belly, shrinking closet (planning ahead and making do)

Because I am always looking for a reason not to shop, I decided that in order to buy as few maternity outfits as possible, I had to start by going through my closet to see what items I already had that could possibly work for a while, or come along for most of the baby-baking ride.

What I’ve learned so far is that although a pair of maternity jeans is needed, many pieces of clothing in my closet actually work! Any loose fitting, jersey or stretchy tops still fit and since I’ve always preferred soft dresses with straight lines (no specific waist line), I was happy to discover that I actually have quite a few that will help me look super cute and put together this fall (fingers crossed). I just needed one little thing to rock some of these dresses in the office.

Tights!

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Made in USA, eco-friendly, small business, black tights to be more exact. How lucky am I that the perfect pair happened to be just a google search away?

Introducing Storq. A California based maternity-wear brand that makes simple, no-squeeze basics and intimates for all growing bellies and changing bodies.

Each piece is made in USA; more specifically, it’s knitted, dyed, cut and sewn in Los Angeles, all within a 10-mile radius.* All labels are screen printed using PVC-free, water-based ink and are sewn flat or printed on the fabric so nothing irritates the skin.

Many Storq products, just like the tights ($60), are made of 95% lenzing modal, a CO2-neutral fiber that comes from sustainably harvested Austrian beech wood forests and 5% spandex for stretch. (I recently promoted modal in my guide to eco-friendly fabrics too.)

My new tights are unbelievably soft and luxurious! They can be worn pulled up, over the belly, or folded down to sit at the hip. Houston is still kind of hot so I am wearing them low.

They’re meant to work for growing bodies, all nine months, and although I haven’t quite “grown into” my tights yet, they never slide down or become uncomfortable. It is a solid design, made by women who know how maternity wear should fit and function.

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Since I was already buying the tights online I decided to throw in a nursing bra while I was at it. I figured I might not run into many planet-friendly, made in USA, soft, no underwire bras, so I better strike when I see one. It stretches and is super comfy, just like the tights. Actually, I can’t find a reason why not all women, pregnant or not, wouldn’t love this bra! ($42)

I’m still counting these two items as my one new thing purchased in October. ONE SET of undergarments. See? ;)

A little eco-bonus is that Storq knows how annoying is it for women to invest in a temporary pregnancy wardrobe, therefore they have partnered with a recycling company, 2ReWear, to help us recycle anything we can’t give to a friend or use again. All we have to do is contact them and mail our things.

Check them out at Storq.com

Ps. The tunic I’m wearing has become my favorite bump-friendly dress. Believe it or not, I bought it in 2004! The shoes are US-made Oka-Bs and the tote is also US-made from Seltzer Goods.

*UPDATE. Storq has in 2018 ditched made in USA for MADE IN CHINA! Unacceptable. Keeping the post up because I love this outfit and post.

Pictures by Shutterluv by Ashley.

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.

Red, white and blue (sunny harbor dress!)

We’re mid-way through September, and although temperatures are cooling off, Houston still allows us to wear dresses. And that’s pretty lucky for me, considering I have a brand new one!

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Via 74 dress with Oka-B ballet flats – made right here

Have you heard of Via 74 before?

It’s an online shopping site with ONLY made in USA garments from which I got my new dress! The clothes are not only stitched together here, the actual fabrics are made in USA as well. Via 74 source from different trustworthy wholesellers and you don’t know exactly what the what the brand label will say (other than made in USA) until the garment shows up at your doorstep. This mix of sources adds up to quite a versatile collection.

For me, being not just a “support local” consumer but also an eco-woman, I always want to know the contents of the fabric too, and at Via 74 it’s listed loudly and clearly for each item.

That’s how I came to decide on exactly this dress (there are so many!) for myself. It’s made of 95% modal (and 5% spandex) which is an eco-friendly choice made from beech wood. There were lots of pretty dresses that I liked, but since they were made of polyester or rayon they weren’t for me. Transparency online is so awesome.

This dress was on sale for 3o-something dollars, but I ended up paying only 22 after rebates. And on top of that, shipping was free! What!

I’m very excited about this.

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Via 74 is a member of the Made in America Movement; they are committed to American made goods and honest domestic sourcing. Check them out here (you won’t believe their colorful selection :)).

Pics by Shutterluv.

Six months of driving a Tesla: What I know so far

First, let me just get the obvious, in your face Tesla fact out of the way. Yes, by the time I’m halfway to my house, your growling V8 is still revving up to get you out of the parking lot. Hang in there buddy!

Now, let’s get down to Tesla Model S owning business. We get lots of questions about our car from people we know, but also from strangers in parking lots. Based on the questions we get most, I decided to compile a list of information and answers in this post!

Of course, I’m an eco-blogger and this is all written from my point of view based on personal experiences with this beautiful machine.

It’s not zero emissions, but it sure can be

On paper, our Tesla is zero emissions because all the money we spend on electricity goes to a 100% renewable energy provider, but in real life our carbon footprint per mile is around 50% of that of a comparable midsize gas-driven sedan.

See, In Texas the energy is made up by several different sectors; nuclear, coal, natural gas and about 10% wind power is pumped into the grid. Since we use the grid for power, a mix of those technologies fuels our car. That combined with the higher efficiency of the electric engine, adds up to us emitting about half the pollution that a single gasoline engine emits. As Texas moves more towards wind and away from coal, that number of course will improve (there’s hoping!).

In states like Oregon, Idaho and Washington which are mainly powered by hydropower, driving an EV (electric vehicle) is actually very close to zero emissions, so owning one there boosts the eco benefits. If you have your own solar panels, of course you’re emitting zero carbon per mile for real. (We are looking into it!)

Flipping off the oil companies feels SO good (every day)

Let’s face it. Filling up the car with gas is not an enjoyable moment. Not having to do so at all is amazing (and less germy).

Each time I drive by a gas station I feel pretty darn good about the fact that my car was fully loaded by the time I jumped into it in the morning. People seem worried about the 4-5 hour duration it takes to charge the car at home (from completely empty to full), but honestly, don’t most of us spend at least 7-8 hours in our homes at night? I know I do. And for the charge to take that long, the car must be running on empty. If you drive 40-50 miles in a day, the charge time is more like an hour.

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At home “fueling”. Safe. Cozy. Smell free. No pin code needed.

Not giving my money to ExxonMobil or Chevron is also wondrous (every day). Like I wrote above, our electricity provider is 100% green, so that’s where our money goes now instead of going to oil giants.

Savings? About 30 dollars per month with our driving habits and electricity provider (and current low gas prices!).

You can charge your Tesla in a regular 110V/10A outlet, but in order to charge as fast as we do, you must have your house, or garage, wired with at least a 240V/40A outlet, a $700-$1000 one time cost. The higher the power, the faster the charge. (A certified electrician can tell you what is possible in your home.)

Do we ever forget to charge? Nah. Plugging in became habit right away. Do we forget to pull the charger out before a trip? No, the car won’t let us go.

Range anxiety is (pretty much) uncalled for

The furthest we’ve taken the Tesla so far is Waco, TX. A good 215 mile trip (one way) from Houston, ending in a town with six Tesla superchargers waiting for us. And with a 270 mile battery life, a trip like that isn’t an issue.

Here’s the thing. The Google maps system in the car is programmed to guide your travel so you stop and charge when you need to. Type in that you’re going to New York and the car will make a plan for your trip including which chargers you should stop at, and for how long to “fuel”. There is no risk of you running out of power, as long as you have half a brain and listen to the car’s needs.

Of course charging at the Tesla superchargers is free, so no need to save up for road trip gas money (just coffee money, unless you happen to find a café that offers that for free as well for Tesla owners, like the Collin Street Bakery chain in Texas).

Sure, charging may take 20 minutes instead of a gas stop that takes five, but on a road trip, it’s not that big of a deal. Take a break, have a snack (the chargers are often walking distance from other amenities) and frankly, we’ve been on one little road trip in six months. 99% of the time we stay in the Houston area, and 270 miles is more than enough to get us anywhere we want to go (or we could just charge at the superchargers here in Houston!)

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Three mean machines supercharging in Waco, TX

My manager thinks 400 miles in one charge will be the magic number to get people to lose the anxiety. Once the EVs get that, the market will boom. I hope he’s right. (Tesla’s new 100kwh battery package already gets 350+ miles.)

Silence is truly golden

No, we don’t miss the sound of a gas guzzling engine when we start the car, or accelerate. It does make a swishing sound, like a turbine starting, when you hit the pedal hard and it is quite awesome (and addictive). The silent cabin makes listening to music pure joy.

Speaking of which, it comes with internet radio (Slacker) and most of the radio stations in the world are accessible for live streaming, anytime, anywhere. There’s no extra charge for this radio awesomeness.

Service is not a problem and the software is constantly updating

At least it has not been for us. Living in a large city with several Tesla showrooms and service locations of course helps us feel confident and relaxed, if something was to happen the car would be picked up or serviced at the location as soon as a Tesla Ranger could make it there.

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Tesla Pick up day :)

And what other car actually gets better with time? As you drive the Tesla it can learn your patterns in order to use energy more efficiently, share road knowledge with other Teslas and the software is automatically updated with the latest improvements as well (via wi-fi).

I don’t care what the news say, the Autopilot works and it rocks

Every time there’s a car accident involving a Tesla, news agencies are having a field day. Imagine if CNN reported each time a Ford or Chevy was involved in an accident! Of course corporate media have ties to oil industries and large car makers, and will report negatively on Tesla whenever they get a chance. They’re hating on Tesla like they were hating on Bernie Sanders. So be it. New ideas and inventions are a little scary for the conservative crowd.

The truth is the Tesla Model S and X are the safest cars on the road today, exceeding the five star crash ratings in every aspect and the AutoPilot (the car’s ability to steer and control speed itself) really works. It is super convenient, especially when I have to peel a banana. Like, who can do that with one hand?

Keep your hand on the wheel (as soon as you’re done with the banana!) and be observant of traffic and when the car beeps and tells you to take control, don’t ignore it and continue watching Harry Potter on your phone (the 17″ awesome touchscreen will not let you watch movies!). Again, listen to the car’s needs.

Needless to say, having a long-range electrical car is just like having any other car, just way more convenient with less pollution, gas pumping and noise. Even if I keep saying that electrical vehicles are the future, I admit our car doesn’t feel futuristic at all, it feels contemporary. And why wouldn’t it? Why should a car in 2016 look, drive and function like a car did ten years ago (or make that a hundred years ago)?

I believe in and passionately promote a future where all our cars are electric! That’s why our family made it a priority to lease one. It matters to us. A lot.

Not everyone will or can have a Tesla, but other than the much longer range and free charging, several benefits above apply to other electrical cars as well. As the Tesla Model 3 is released in 2017, with a $35,000 price tag, we’re one step closer to making long range, beautiful EVs accessible for the masses.

(Ps. Tesla is made right here in the States, boosting American ingenuity and providing thousands of jobs out west and in motor city. Thanks Elon Musk!)

Another update on my 2016 sustainable shopping challenge!

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.

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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!

How are you challenging your old shopping habits?

Link to the January through April update here.

If you’re gonna put a US flag or state on it, then please, make it here.

Nothing drives a “not made in China shopper” crazier than souvenirs and patriotic merchandise made in China. (That is if the shopper in question is not in China shopping for these things, but in for example Texas.)

At a recent shopping outing at HomeGoods (just browsing!), my friend and I ran into this:

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Texas state pride – made in China.

First let me say this, there are things that people buy that kind of have to be imported, sometimes for very good reasons. One example I can think of right now is bamboo. Bamboo is a sustainably harvested plant, very often grown in China and East Asia. It’s durable in use, considered eco-friendly, but doesn’t grow here.

As for the Texas wall art, there is no excuse. Let’s take a second to note what it is made of, namely, some sort of wood, stain and white paint. Hmm, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen these materials in Texas before!

The sad thing is that some proud Texan will fall in love with this simple painting (not sure what to call it really), take it home, hang it and feel good about it. Probably never reading the tag that says made in China on the back.

So, shoppers, read the tag and refuse local pride made overseas!

And makers, if you’re gonna put a US flag or state on it, then please, make it here.

At the end of the day, this is why we need to stop trade agreements like the TPP, folks! What a waste it is to import items we already have (wood, stain, paint, cardboard) all while outsourcing labor and adding polluting transport to our oceans. It should never make economic sense to do so.

Read my take on the TPP (Transpacific Partnership) here and add your name to the petition to stop it here. Right now it looks like there won’t be a vote on the TPP this year, which is great (!), but we still need to campaign against it.