Tag Archives: shop local

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 ;)

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.

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

If you are a nature lover or environmentalist, chances are, you’ve got something from Patagonia in your closet. And rightfully so, they make good quality, practical clothes that last a long time.

I haven’t bought any new clothes for eco-baby other than two pairs of wool socks from Smart Wool and diapers (does that count?) and, as you may have guessed since I’m bringing it up: something from Patagonia. The rest of his fashion is all second hand.

I couldn’t resist this little tee though. It’s made in USA of fair-trade, 100% organic cotton (most likely grown in India or Turkey) and has a mason jar (the symbol of zero waste living) and a great statement “Live simply” on it. I found it at the clearance rack at Whole Earth Provision in Houston for only 10 dollars, so it was a pretty good deal too!

Live simply patagonia baby t shirt
Eco-baby’s only (so far) non-second hand tee.

Let’s talk Patagonia. A company that decided to donate all proceeds from their Black Friday sales to environmental organizations last year. A company that’s into preserving the environment, reducing their carbon footprint and has been ever since they started in 1973. They have a repair program in which worn clothes are revived, produce a line of sustainably dyed jeans and all their cotton garments are 100% organic (some of it grown in the USA). They also offer paid family leave and on-site childcare (to their US employees).

That said, it was just a coincidence that I bought eco-baby a Patagonia shirt. Come to think of it, neither myself nor my husband own anything from the brand so I can’t say we’re fans. Why, if they’re so eco-friendly and fair haven’t we supported them more?

Honestly, I have some issues with them. Mostly, it’s the importing from China thing.

Patagonia manufactures the majority of their garments in Asia and thereby (pretty much) all their merchandise sold in USA is imported from far away. Eco-baby’s little tee is the first thing I’ve ever run into that’s made right here (still from imported fabric!).

Why is this such an issue to me?

About 70% of crude oil pumped from our precious soil or ocean floor becomes diesel or heating oil. A large chunk of that diesel is used by shipping transports, you know those huge container ships constantly cruising our oceans with “stuff”. To limit further climate change we MUST stop importing the vast quantities of goods from the Far East that we currently do. It is completely unsustainable and harms marine life. I find it strange that an eco-company takes this lightly.

And while Patagonia may say that all their Chinese shops are fair and eco-friendly, I can’t help but wonder if they really, truly know. I haven’t yet seen a fair-trade stamp in their fluffy jackets or in their plaid shirts made in China. (The Indian fabrics and jeans are certified, but not the Chinese.) Where’s the stamp? And how do they know the factories are running on green energy?

My second issue is the heavy use of polyesters, and I am not the first one to bring up this issue with Patagonia. Fleece being a favorite of many outdoorsmen, one would think Patagonia would have come up with a 100% plant-based fleece by now, considering poly-blends are made from fossil fuel and release a ton of plastic microfibers into our waters every time they’re washed. Right?

I’m curious to see if any of these concerns of mine will be addressed by Patagonia in the future. I hope so, but cheap labor and stay-dry fabrics sure are attractive for a global company.

In the end, what I am trying to say with this post is that although a company appears to be doing things properly, going beyond what is required by consumers and is by definition “green”, there may be policies that I, on my own eco-journey, don’t agree with. And just because I don’t want to shop everything a brand has to offer, doesn’t mean I can’t buy the items that indeed are made right (here).

There is no getting away from tag-checking! Every time. Every garment. Every brand.

You can check out Patagonia’s Global Footprint HERE.

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!

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.

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.

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.

august

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.

Local is the new black (pair of shoes)

Yes. I bought myself another pair. A black pair for upcoming fall fashion.

In my defense, I did go through the entire list of Made in USA shoe brands on The USA Love List and did a google search before I committed to a yet another pair of Oka-bs.

Black Janey flats Oka-b
Made in USA “Janey” flats from Oka-b. Love.

The truth is there is just no beating the price ($45), the origin (made in Georgia, USA) and the comfort of these ballet flats!

The fact that they’ll recycle the shoes for me when (or if!) I’m ever done with them, just makes me feel so much better too.

This beautiful pair of flats are the Janey style in licorice (with grey pendant) and I am proud to say they were my one and only purchase in July. I’m rocking the 12 months – 12 items challenge.

Black Oka-b shoes LulaRoe pinstripe skirt
New ballet flats with my LuLaRoe (made in USA of imported fabric) skirt. Oh, and a plant.

To learn more about this company, read my other Oka-B posts: The first one. The second one.