Tag Archives: not made in china challenge

It’s time to spring in to recycling LESS! (Here’s why)

It is that time of year again when nature bursts out blooms, bikes start rolling, we shut off our lights for Earth Hour and gear up to celebrate Earth Day April 22nd. Let’s just say, spring is in the air and with that, it’s time to talk environmental issues.

On the agenda? Recycling plastic.

Oh no! Not again!? Yes, again.

Here’s why; as per January 1, 2018, China stopped importing recyclable plastic from the USA.

Maybe you missed the news, and maybe you are wondering why that is worth blogging about. Well, before this year, China took the majority of our plastic waste (16 million tons in 2016), recycled it, and turned it into plastic goods made in China. Even though most of those plastic items I am sure were unnecessary, this procedure meant that at least some our discarded plastic jugs, lids, boxes and wrappers got used for something.

When you add the fact that so many container ships sail half-empty back to Asia because of the huge trade deficit, filling containers with plastic scrap made even more sense from an environmental standpoint.

So, why did China decide to stop accepting “free” raw material? You probably think that sounds like a bad idea, especially since they already have the facilities and manufacturing equipment to recycle huge amounts of plastic.

The reason why China is saying “no more” is they are cleaning up their act and marketing themselves that way. That term includes more than implementing carbon taxes and reducing air pollution by shutting down coal plants; it includes looking good and clean. They are tired of drowning in plastic and having messy factories full of bins of materials; sometimes contaminated and always needing sorting. They want to buy newly made raw materials; neat, streamlined, no need for warehouses full of “stuff”.

I’d like to argue that the clean “green” thing to do would be to keep accepting discarded plastic for recycling and to use less virgin plastic materials in their manufacturing of goods. They’re helping us ALL recycle! (That’s good marketing too.) The decision to stop imports is upsetting the market and undoing decades of progress in handling scraps. That said, it’s not exactly fair to put the recycling responsibility on one country alone either.

The west coast is now drowning in the plastic that China used to pick up. We don’t have the facilities to deal with it and let’s not forget, the biggest pushers for consuming virgin plastic are American chemical companies working against local recycling infrastructure (laughing all the way to the bank when they heard China’s big news).

It should also be noted that China is one of the top polluters when it comes to plastic in our oceans. Turns out, they don’t have the infrastructure to deal with plastic either. So what’s worse? Our “recycled yoghurt cup” being shipped to China, maybe falling into the river and flowing into the ocean or it being buried alive in an American landfill, spewing methane?

Can we all just agree as a society in whole we SUCK at taking responsibility for used plastic? (Yes.)

Now we are at the “So what can we do?” part of this blog post!

Whooop! My favorite part.

recycling plastic

1. We must STOP thinking that throwing plastic in the recycling bin is an eco-friendly thing to do. Our goal should always be to look down our recycling bin and see mostly carton, metal and glass (if accepted in your area or you might have to drive to a station to recycle) in a half-empty bin. We should leave as much packaging in the store as possible. Now, I love chips just as much as the next person, but I am not pretending that the bag will end up anywhere but landfill. I know that is where it’s going and I have to decide how much I want quinoa puffs today based on that fact. Let’s no longer pretend that an item that doesn’t get recycled, magically does (“wishcycling”). Knowing what really happens, helps us make better choices. Studies have shown that people who believe items are recycled, consume MORE. Read about plastic and its recyclability here.

2. We must purchase and support local makers who use recycled material. You can read more about recycling and get ideas for brands in this post. If you are buying Chinese, or other imported goods, look for recycled content! Our goal is to let the market know that we care about where the raw materials used in a product comes from.

3. Even though we live in a plastic polluted world, companies who use recycled plastic still have an issue getting enough of it for their production lines. Like I said, we don’t have the infrastructure in place. We can help by asking specific companies what they need and provide it directly to them. For example US based, eco-company Preserve accepts number 5 plastics (yogurt cups, hummus jars) back via their Gimme 5 program (bins available at certain Whole Foods). American Oka-B and Canadian Kamik footwear companies accept and recycle worn-out styles as well.

4. Write to your favorite politicians and inform active members in your community about this issue. Volunteer in a recycling and waste handling committee where you live if you have time :)

Those are my ideas for doing something about this issue! What are some of yours?

I am definitely not the “perfect plastic free citizen” but every action to reduce matters. Do you think about plastic when you go about your day? Have you made progress in reducing your plastic consumption this year so far? Let me know :)

Finally some sustainable fashion on the blog! (A NEW made in USA outfit)

You’ve probably been wondering if I am ever going to blog about sustainable, made in USA fashion again, and believe me, I have been wondering the same thing. It’s been a year since my last, proper, photo blog!

People always say, when you have a child your priorities change. This always sounded so negative to me, like the parents had been “forced” to change their priorities and were upset about it, but now, at least speaking for myself, I so enjoy having new priorities! What’s better than spending the weekend at home with our little bub? Exactly! Nothing beats that. Not even a photoshoot.

Ok, yes, I have also had some skin issues, which has made it not so appealing to get in front of the camera. However, today, I happened to love the outfit I wore for the office holiday party and my skin is quite good, so I decided to take some selfies!

This is a great, flowy dress from Via 74 with long sleeves, in an A-shape with stripes. It is polyester which isn’t eco-super, but it is made in USA, has pockets and is totally Anna. TOTALLY Anna. (You know this by now. Stripes + blue.)

Made in USA cardigan and dress
Love these colors together!

I found this long cardigan at Nordstrom Rack when I was there looking for a new pair of jeans to wear at the office the other day. It was hanging alone in the clearance section (only $34!) and I know why it ended up there: giant fabric bows on each sleeve which were totally ruining the look. Since the fabric is a rayon blend (also not very eco-friendly unfortunately) I knew I could cut them off without damaging or having to mend the fabric, so I bought it, fixed it and now I love it! (Brand is Pleione.)

Made in USA fashion
“Selfie posing” as if this was a Christmas catalogue. Nailed it.

Question: Is it more sustainable to shop new clothes from the clearance rack than it is from regular stores? What happens to the last pieces on a clearance rack if they aren’t sold? Can I consider myself someone who saved this awesome cardigan from landfill?!

Maybe ;) I would love to hear your thoughts on this one!

Oh, Texas winter outfits, I love you.

PS. Tights are old ones from Express (made in USA), scarf is my pre-challenge DSW favorite (made in China) and booties are 2013 Ecco. Old is sustainable too!

How to master going Plant Based – when you have a life (Six quick tips!)

Switching to a plant based, whole foods (PBWF) diet from a “regular” one is super easy!

Said no one.

Ever.

I am a pretty determined lady, yet I will be the first to admit that changing your own and your family’s diet over night is a bit of a struggle. Not so much when it comes to the tasks at hand (find a recipe – make it – taste it) but in the acceptance and adjustment of appetite, taste and lifestyle.

I started my PBWF transformation about three months ago. At the time I was eating a 95% vegetarian diet; I had switched most dairy for plant based alternatives a long time ago and quit beef in 2015. However, I was eating chicken occasionally (when we got Chinese take out), cheese on pizza and eggs. It was a gluten heavy diet with a fair amount of processed foods. I wasn’t by any means a stranger to great vegan food and for a long time I’ve enjoyed cooking and shopping for healthy meals. To me, it was a planet-friendly diet, that didn’t compromise the comfort of my life.

Then came the health issues and I decided to go full on PBWF.

I’ve had ups and downs. Lost weight and cleared my skin. Cheated with cheese.

Either way; I have learned a lot and I want to share with you!! Here are SIX THINGS I’ve learned since going Plant Based, which I hope can help someone else in their transition to the MOST planet-, and health-friendly diet there is :)

1. Go easy on other eco/health/life goals

This is number one because it’s important.

No matter what anyone tells you, cooking from scratch with whole ingredients while reading new recipes takes time. If you are a master chef already, you’ll be good, but if you think making grilled-cheese is cooking, you’re in trouble. (Also, consider how much time you’ll spend figuring out what toppings to put on sandwiches!) Now that I have committed to guiding  my wonderful family through a transition to a PBWF lifestyle, you might be wondering how I make time. Well, I go easy on other things. Hell no there’ll be no cleaning. Do I ever work out? NO. I am not zero-wasting this thing either. This mama can’t be making her own waste-free hummus and bake crackers in order to have an after work snack. I am also not exactly the social butterfly, I like being home. (My situation is I work full time as a project manager, I have a 10 month old, a husband, a house and a blog.) No matter your lifestyle, with a new diet, there is no time for shitty commitments. Or Facebook. Let them slide.

vegan
A balanced, vegan diet. Fancy.

2. Soups are your new (best) friends

I am the kind of cook who freaks out if there are too many steps to a recipe, that’s why I love making soup. Measure, wash, chop and in the pot it goes. Try this awesome Moroccan Lentil Soup, this Minestrone, this Peanut Soup or search for a simple vegan curry. (I know many of my friends love their croc-pot which, I am sure, also makes great PBWF soups.) On a side note, why do carrots taste out-of-this-world amazing when they’ve simmered in a soup for an hour?

3. Broth, broth, broth

This tip is somewhat related to above soup tip, since vegetable broth is included in pretty much every soup. However, you can also use it to add flavor to stews, mashed potatoes, rice, lentils, cooked veggies – anything! You can make your own broth from scratch or like me (in accordance with tip number one) buy meal saving, ready-made, packaged bullion tablets from Knorr.

4. Exploring recipes is your new hobby

Forget Instyle, your new leisure reading materials are vegan cookbooks and PlantBased magazine. The Forks over Knives’ recipe app will become a dear friend as well. Downtime at work should be spent reading amazing health stories on how people survived [insert illness here] by going plant based. Anything to keep you motivated and inspired on this journey. Please note you may develop “militant vegan” type traits. (“My foot hurts” says random person, so you say “maybe you should go vegan!”)

5. Junk food is the hardest thing to quit

I had no problems quitting junk shopping a few years ago (Yay, go not made in China challenge!) but quitting junk food is not as easy. I have no magic trick that makes cheese all of a sudden taste gross. (Sorry animal activists, vegan cheese is not cheese.) I eat too many chips probably. The only tip I have when it comes to this part of it, is to create a directory of local, plant-based friendly take-out restaurants (like Chipotle, salad bars, Indian places) for when you need something quick. Then just do your best and pick something vegan. It may not be all “whole foods” but at least it’s plant based.

6. Find your signature meal

Last but not least, find your signature meal! Our go to is wholegrain spaghetti with vegan Bolognese: marinara sauce, onions, tomato, pea-protein and whatever veggies I feel like throwing in. We love it and baby eats it too. Dinner shouldn’t be difficult or fancy all the time, just nutrient packed.

peanut soup
Meet Peanut Soup with brown rice (cooked in broth!). Yum.

That’s my whole list of wisdom! (So far.)

As for the future, I think Carrie Underwood put it best; “I am vegan but I don’t freak out if there is some cheese on my pasta.” (Cheating with cheese, also referred to as “cheesing”. LOL.)

Even PETA agrees; don’t be the vegan who makes a plant based diet look difficult by asking the waiter to check if there’s dairy in the burger bun. Instead be the person who makes a vegan, or vegetarian, diet seem tasty, easy and inclusive. That’s how you encourage others to cut their meat, become healthier and more planet minded.

Questions?

Let me know if anyone is or have been going through the same transformation!

Is your new dress funding North Korea’s nuclear program? Find out.

You know, some people think it’s really silly to refuse straws and shop local. They “kind of care” about the environment, and yes, they’ll agree climate change is real, but it’s just not enough for them to change any of their habits.

Keeping our environment safe isn’t enough. Reducing global warming (yes, that ol’ term!) isn’t enough.

So, a Not Made in China challenge is CRAZY right? Why would anyone give up shopping away on Amazon for something like that!??

I recently shared my six reasons for not buying made in China here on the blog, and although one of them has nothing to do with the environment, all six are rooted in sustainability. Sustainable world, sustainable economy.

“Anna, we don’t care about sustainability! We care about cheap stuff!”

I know.

However, here’s something “awesome” that has just been revealed, that some of you might actually care about:

Your made in China clothes could be made in North Korea.

Yes, you read that right.

It’s becoming more and more common for Chinese textile businesses to take advantage of the cheap labor across the border, yet still labeling items “Made in China” according to a recent report from Reuters.

“Textiles were North Korea’s second-biggest export after coal and other minerals in 2016, totaling $752 million, according to data from the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA).”

The fascinating thing about that is that all of North Korea’s factories are state-owned. Remind me now, how do we all like the state of North Korea?

“In North Korea, factory workers can’t just go to the toilet whenever they feel like, they think it slows down the whole assembly line. They aren’t like Chinese factory workers who just work for the money. North Koreans have a different attitude – they believe they are working for their country, for their leader.”

Would you, as an American, sleep well at night knowing that YOU helped fund North Korea’s nuclear program?

Our purchases matter. EVERY DAMN TIME. For so many reasons.

I may be a tree-hugging, tag checking, straw refusing liberal, but at least I know who and what I am funding with my dollars.

Do you?

[Quotes from the Reuters article, which you can read HERE.]

Six reasons why I’m on a Not Made in China Challenge

Things have changed in this world of ours since I started the Not Made in China Challenge in 2014. Most of these changes are good.

For starters, India and China are investing billions in renewable energy – wind, solar, hydro – more than any other nations. In addition to this, China is shutting down its last coal plant in Beijing in an effort to clear the air (switching to natural gas) for millions of Chinese living in the region. Developing countries all over the world are going from no electricity to solar powered life – skipping the burning of fuels all together. Good news.

Meanwhile Donald (aka the worst president ever) is leaving the Paris Climate Agreement and talking about bringing jobs back in the coal industry as part of his plan to “put America first”. Although coal is never going to happen (sorry Donny boy!), the fact that he’s pro the most polluting technology we have and doesn’t believe in climate change, is bad news.

So, does it still make sense, as a sustainable shopper, to be on a Not Made in China Challenge?

YES!

Of course I would say that – hello blog – but there are great reasons for it too. Here’s why I am on this challenge, and keeping at it in 2017 and beyond.

The President is all talk

We know by now that all the campaign promises made by the Republican candidate were just false. He is not doing anything to bring jobs back here, he is not even ensuring that his beloved pipelines are to be made with American steel. He may have come up with the “Made in America Week” which is a great initiative, but so far, NOTHING has been done to ensure more items are, or remain “made right here”. (Also leaving the Paris Climate Agreement and not investing in renewables would most likely create fewer jobs for Americans down the line.) He talked the talk, but as usual, it’s still up to us consumers to walk the walk. And as far as that goes, no policies have been put in place that would make it easier or more affordable for Americans to choose “Made in USA”.

The core of my Not Made in China Challenge is to support small businesses that use sustainable production practices and eco-friendly materials. That effort supports our local communities; the tax-paying entrepreneurs, makers, builders and artisans living here. (Supporting a small business might mean a family can afford health insurance when/if GOP takes it away!) Basically this challenge is about “Main Street not Wall Street”.

Environmental questions remain

Even though China is switching things up in the energy market, honoring the Paris Climate Agreement and talking about implementing a carbon tax (YES!), small rural factories are still powered by burning coal. Not only by pulling electricity from the coal fired grid, but many actually run their own, tiny furnaces which have no filters, no air cleaning catalyst (NOx being an issue) and low efficiency.

There’s also more to a healthy planet than a low carbon air. China, India and several other countries are still polluting their groundwater and surrounding oceans by uncontrolled wastewater from manufacturing. (So is America, I know, I know, but I find it easier to spot the businesses here who do that, like Georgia Pacific.)

The force is not with the workforce

I have yet to see a certified fair-trade item come out of China. What’s going on with decent wages and healthy workplaces? Not much, I’m afraid.

This is of course also true for many other places; India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam, Mexico, neighboring Latin American countries and even, dare I say it, we’ve got some sketchy California sweatshops too. Best to stay away from them all unless we’re talking about certified fair-trade, organic and/or small business/artisan style items we can trust. If it’s too cheap to be true (aka in the West as “A GREAT deal”) – someone suffered to make it.

The trade deficit

Our ginormous trade deficit with China isn’t shrinking. In fact, what we export most to the Chinese is AIR. Yep, empty containers are constantly heading across the ocean to pick up more “stuff” for bored Americans. How much are we talking? The trade deficit with China was almost FOUR BILLION DOLLARS in 2015, and it grows every year.

The issue here is that Chinese business men (and women!) are investing more than ever in the USA, buying land, real estate and factories as we speak. Basically China could soon “own the USA” thanks to you shopping at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Transport hasn’t gone “clean”

There has not been any breakthroughs when it comes to shipping transport. Large container ships are still burning through barrel after barrel of fossil fuel shipping the above mentioned “stuff” and empty containers back and forth. Container ships remain a threat to marine mammals by interruption of sound waves and migration paths as well.

Honestly, it’s the easy way to shop less

Since most everything is imported, reading labels and tags so I can avoid “Made in China” means I can’t buy anything. I feel like this issue is so often forgotten when we talk about Climate Change and the environment. We can elect all the climate friendly politicians for Congress we want, but it won’t matter if we continue down this path of OVER-CONSUMPTION.

I’m not saying that a Not Made in China Challenge fits all, different rules work for different people. This works for me, and I am sure it would work for most suburban Americans with access to Target. 

So I’m staying on the challenge – I am thriving at it actually. Sure as hell doesn’t mean I don’t respect China and their efforts to act on climate change.

Buy less, buy local.

Main Street, not Wall Street.

PS: To find out more about what this challenge means to me, read my entire blog! (it’s fun I promise!) Or maybe start with reading my “About” page :)

 

A car seat that’s made right here. AND made right there.

It’s extra exciting for me when I get to promote a brand that is locally made to both my American and European readers. I don’t know if it has ever happened before, but it did now, namely Britax car seats!

Made right here in Fort Mills, South Carolina for the American market and made in Germany for the European market under the name Britax Römer.

Maxi Cosi is the world’s most sold infant car seat, however I know from flipping it over in the store, that it’s actually made in China. My sister also told me that she found it to be very heavy. Based on those two facts, we decided to look at using another brand.

My boss told me that Britax is made in the USA, so that seemed like a good starting point!

Turns out that Britax is a top safety pick with its newborn inserts, cushions, easily adjusted straps, ISO-fix base (that stays in the car), and side collision protection. Of course, it is rear-facing.

In terms of weight, I don’t think it is any lighter than my sister’s Maxi Cosi! I struggle when I’m carrying baby from the car and he’s still tiny. Thank goodness we made sure the car seat fit on top of our stroller, that way we can drive the baby around when we’re out and about.

I probably don’t have to say it, but I love it when I go browsing, fearing that the market will be saturated by made in China and Taiwan options, and immediately find a good, solid brand that is NOT. It’s my favorite thing.

Unfortunately, all the Britax traveling accessories (mirrors, storage pockets, seat protectors etc.) are made in China. So are the accessories of all other carseat brands. Kind of disappointing, especially when these are need to have items, such as the sun and rain cover my husband insisted we get for the sake of protecting our little pooper from Texas’ elements. Yes guys, I’ve committed my first 2017 baby-related shopping felony ($29.99). I only made it until February!

The Britax infant car seats sell for about 400 EUR across the pond and $200 here stateside, including the ISO-fix base. It’s one of the more expensive seats in the market for sure, but considering the safety aspect and that it’s made right here (or there!) it’s worth it. I like knowing that we’ve invested in a great cruiser for our baby :)

Is green living even possible with a baby in the house?

It’s a good question. Right?

One I asked myself before we had our baby and one I am still thinking about. Hardcore environmentalists actually argue that having a baby is so bad for the environment that none of us should have any. Articles promoting not having kids have circulated the green community for a while, been enthusiastically shared and, of course, I see their point; an average American’s carbon footprint exceeds 20 tonnes each year so don’t add another one. That number is calculated with today’s consumption behavior and technology – it can most certainly decrease as these improve.

So, a baby is bad for the environment. But what if he’s the new Elon Musk or Bernie Sanders? What if he invents the best carbon trapping technology ever, one that solves our climate issues forever? Yes, this is how we (and other green parents) are justifying our actions.

On that note meet baby August, our little love bug, who turns two months today.

img_0337
One month old August!

Now, despite the carbon footprint of a new (western) life – Is it possible to make mindful, eco-friendly, low carbon choices to soften the blow? All amidst intense emotions, new routines and a strange little person to keep alive?

For us, yes and no. We’re trying our best. Let me start by confessing some of our less successful undertakings.

Failure # 1: Trash, trash, trash

I will admit that there was not much cooking going on during the first month of baby’s life. Yes, we ate pre-made food, ordered take out (some of it packaged in Styrofoam!) and lived off of Cliff energy bars. We even had Starbucks (twice!) in their disposable cups. Honestly, I think we created more waste in that first month than we had in the previous six! I felt bad about it, but at the same time I knew it wasn’t a big deal to live like most Americans do all year, since it would be for a very short time. Either way, a green living fail.

Failure # 2: Baby gifts

Baby August has been spoiled with gifts from neighbors and colleagues, people we know but aren’t aware of our lifestyle, thus these gifts have included quite a few sweatshop-made, Asian imports. We took a few things back but kept many of them as they were usable (and we didn’t have gift receipts). Our close friends and family have been super thoughtful and only given us baby gear made in USA, second hand items, handmade crafts or brought us food. I’d say we’ve managed to stay as minimalist as one can hope, having a new baby and being surrounded by kind, generous people who want to congratulate us (and how lucky are we that people feel that way!). All in all, I wouldn’t call it a complete failure, despite some “Made in China” tags sneaking into our home.

Now on to the greener side if things.

Success story # 1: Baby’s food

Going back to the topic of food; we have continued to shop local, vegan, bulk and organic to the same extent we were before, and we have kept up with the compost. August is eating (or should I say “drinking”?) the most eco-friendly, zero waste and natural food possible: mama’s milk! I am thankful that after some practice, baby and I got the hang of breastfeeding. Green living win (and all around nutritiously awesome!)

Success story # 2: Cloth diapers

Though trash was initially piling up in the kitchen, we were (and are) mastering almost zero waste in the bathroom! I was determined to cloth diaper the baby from the very beginning and I am happy to say we started doing so after only one week. We were sent home from the hospital with a packet of Huggies newborn diapers, but about five days in, both my husband and I were ready to switch to cloth – Huggies don’t hold shit (literally) and that gets tired very fast. I definitely have to do a blog post on cloth diapers, the environment and our routine when I have more experience with it! I will tell you now that it is not hard to do if you own a washer and dryer. Cloth diapers and wipes: another green living win.

Now that we’ve settled in and things are becoming less chaotic, we’re back to old habits of me cooking (from scratch) and the gifts have stopped coming (phew!).

My conclusion is that living green with a brand new baby can certainly be done with a little help and superman/woman type motivation. We needed about five weeks before we could get back to being “green” and each week it gets easier to maintain healthy, eco-friendly, low carbon habits. That said, no matter how much we try, August cannot produce zero carbon, just like we, you and I, are contributing to climate change every day.

I am sure there’ll be more eco-compromises as we go along, finding ourselves in new and unexpected “we have a kid” situations! But, I am ok with that, as long as I feel we are doing our very best – for us, the baby and the environment.

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 ;)

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.