Tag Archives: shop small

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.

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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.

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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 ;)

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!

Celebrating the season: Finally fall (bump) fashion!

It’s November! Finally some resemblance of fall in Houston. Actually, that’s a lie, it’s hot as hell but the calendar says November and with that it’s officially scarf season, my favorite one by far.

On my quest for sustainable maternity fashion, I went second hand shopping in Greenville, SC when we visited the region about a month ago, and found a pair of maternity jeans ($12) and this cotton-rayon mix dress. Perfect for cooler weather.

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Yes, it’s another straight line dress with stripes (you know that’s my thing!). It is one size up from what I’d normally wear, so I have some room, but there ain’t nothing maternity about it. Generally speaking, I want to be able to wear the clothes I invest in again and again, why not also the ones I buy while pregnant?

I paid $22 for the dress, and I swear it looks brand new. Great deal!

To me, sustainable fashion is using what’s in my closet as much and as long as possible, avoiding at all costs garments going to landfill. Especially ones that still look great. Did you know that by wearing a piece of clothing 50 times instead of five (the fast fashion average), you reduce carbon emissions by 400 percent per year, per garment?

So, I’m wearing my new dress with my (also) new, made in USA maternity tights from Storq.com and pre-challenge (unethically made) favorites from my ever so modest closet. Namely, my very favorite fall scarf (DSW 2012) that goes with everything, a bag my husband bought me (Coach 2012) and impulse purchased booties (Steve Madden 2009). If it’s already in my closet, I make sure I rock it. Bump or no bump!

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I don’t normally use filters on pictures but I figured Houston could use a little extra fall spirit created by one. And I happen to think little eco-baby on the way looks really cute in this light :)

How are you showing off what’s already in your closet this fall?

Pics by Shutterluv.

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.

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.

Recycled aluminum? That (bottle) works for me!

It’s been a busy month and although I haven’t had time to blog as much as I would have like too, I’ve still found the time to buy one new item for myself. Amazing how that happens!

Actually, it was Hubs who discovered these amazingly artsy water bottles, we simply had to have, while reading an outdoors magazine. We could definitely use a few more bottles too, since we always bring water from home on the go. Why we bring? Because single use plastic sucks and it takes minimum effort to fill a bottle at home. The total volume of bottled-water sales exceeded 11.7 billion gallons in 2015, a statistic we will be no part of (and neither should you!)

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Liberty BottleWorks is the brand and Washington State is the manufacturing place. Each bottle is made from recycled aluminum and is therefore lightweight and super durable. (It’s very important to support products made from recycled materials to show the industry that recycling makes sense, pays off and we want it!) In fact, it’s the only American made 100% recycled metal bottle in the market.

The formed plastic mouthpiece seals with only a quarter turn and is spill free (even when purse riding) and BPA-free. We are actually really impressed with how easily the water comes up (with the sports version cap and straw). Quenching!

Liberty BottleWorks take pride in having a zero waste factory and I can confirm the packaging was completely plastic free as well. We bought our bottles over the phone and they came in the smallest box possible with no “extra stuffing”. The straws and caps we had selected shipped loose.

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Liberty BottleWorks Earth Day 2016 Bottle :)

They give back by allocating a portion of their sales to environmental organizations and community services and their policy of hiring US veterans first is what they call “positive discrimination” – I am ok with that!

Talk about following all my 2016 eco-friendly shopping rules!

Last but not least, our bottles hold 24 ounces of water and still fit in our cars’ cup holders. It doesn’t get any better than that.

16oz bottles start at $20, 24oz at $23.

Five fashion statements made in Texas (y’all)

I showed up at Fleastyle Houston a couple of weeks ago in a (made in USA) tank top, old jeans and a pair of sneakers. It hadn’t crossed my mind that an event with “flea” in the name would be a dressy one. But, apparently when there are vintage items and locally made products on display, you should be wearing your trendiest outfit, preferably combined with a few select pieces in light brown leather and high heeled shoes. Acceptable hairstyles include perfect curls, long waves, a high bun or braids. Unwashed hair in a ponytail? Don’t even think about it. (Oops!)

Despite not looking quite the part of someone interested in vintage style, I did get to talk to a number of local vendors and craftswomen about the products they had to show and sell. If not pre-owned, most of the goodies were made right here in the Lone Star State.

Time to finally put together a list of some made in Texas fashion (on my made in Texas blog). Right, y’all?

Here it goes:

1. Newton Supply Co.

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This company is all about them totes and weekenders. Every bag is handmade in Austin and materials are locally sourced whenever possible. My favorite is probably the Texas State tote, made with hand-printed natural cotton canvas, veg-tan leather and brass rivets. So cute! Another cool thing is that Newton partners with a division of the Austin-based Multicultural Refugee Coalition, Open Arms. A non-profit organization assisting them (and other companies) with producing locally made items while empowering refugee women through living wage employment. Prices range from $30 to $250, depending on the style. I wish I needed another tote bag.

2. Kathrine Zeren

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This Houston-based fashion brand is catering to all the wonderful men in our lives. Yes, there are bow-ties made from recycled hemp, vintage handkerchiefs, handmade American leather key chains and organic cotton pocket squares ($32). All made right here from domestically sourced, sustainable materials. Very hip(ster).

3. Folksie

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Folksie is small-batch-fashion for women, men and kiddos, with straight lines, somewhat somber fabrics and a touch of country twang (check out the vests!). All of Folksie’s pieces are handmade in Dallas, one by one, and most are made to order. I’m not sure this brand is for me personally, however the men’s aprons ($95) are pretty darn awesome.

4. Hatton Henry

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Gracefully rustic leather bags in the 100-200 dollar range, is what Hatton Henry offers. Each wallet, tote and clutch is handcrafted (here) in Houston. I’m not sure where the leather is from, but I must say the bags are beautiful. This designer is apparently into helping homeless mutts get better lives too, doing so by donating a percentage of every item sold to a Houston rescue program. So, if you’re one of those people who claim to be an animal lover, yet somehow can justify wearing leather – here’s a brand for you ;).

5. *Leighelena*

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Texas style cuffs and bracelets, handmade in Austin, that’s Leighelena’s thing. Every type of leather (alligator, python, lizard, ostrich) wrist wrap you can think of – they’ve got it. The leather is Italian (I asked) and unfortunately the few vegan options I saw at Fleastyle didn’t feel quite right. I know, I know, this is Texas, there will always be lots of leather, I’m just saying I like more options! The buckle designs are really neat and unique to Leighelena. Priced from $20 and up.

And no, thanks to my shopping challenge, I didn’t get myself anything. Just browsing. Being sustainable.

Go Texas!

All pictures belong to the brands. No ownership intended.

The clothing is old, what’s vintage is new, a purse that is borrowed & ballet flats in blue

Second hand shopping and I don’t always get along. I get impatient and picky and normally leave empty handed. But now and again, on an odd day out, I strike gold. (Fake gold that is.) Why I keep at it? Because it’s the most eco-friendly way to add new things to my closet and I support small neighborhood businesses while doing so!

First, let me introduce my “new” flower broche. A vintage piece that I immediately fell for at the Vintage Revival boutique south of Houston. I paid $10.50. I love using a spectacular broche as the focal point on a (dull) purse!

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Vintage Broche from Vintage Revival Shop, Nassau Bay, TX

This plastic clutch was actually my grandmother’s. She got it for free with a mail-order make-up purchase, sometime in the early 2000s, and I snagged it right away. Finders keepers, you know? That goes for the broche and the clutch bag.

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Made in USA ballet flats, second hand blouse, upcycled jeans

The blouse is ALSO a “new” second hand find! Can you believe it?

This is Lucky Brand (lucky me), from who knows when, which I got for $10 at a local resale shop. I love the pattern and I love how the blue plus red threads “make” purple, allowing me to wear one of my favorite old scarves with it. Scarves always make every outfit better (logic according to Anna). This one was a gift from my mom.

The jeans are my “overhauled” old boot-cut Gap jeans that I blogged about last week, and the flats are, of course, my made in USA Oka-B’s. The BEST (and cutest) shoes for Houston’s wet weather.

Sustainable fashion at its best; garments that are old, a vintage broche that is new, a purse that is borrowed (no return date set) and of course, ballet flats in blue.

That’s how that saying goes, right? ;)

Picture credits: Shutterluv by Ashley.

Totes, stripes and cats: These are a few of my favorite things.

This awesome tote bag is the first thing I have bought for myself in 2016 on my “12 months – 12 pieces” adventure. Meow, it’s cute.

I knew I had to have it the minute “our eyes met” thru a store window after-hours, because he looked just like my adopted cat-brother. (RIP Tusse!)

Our cat was practically impossible to carry, yet we insisted on bringing him everywhere. This light-weight tote has already proven itself to be way easier to handle when out and about! I am used to heavier leather bags and my shoulders are definitely happy about this new, striped, lighter option.cat

Now, did this purchase hit the spot on my 2016 shopping goals? Yes!

I bought this “Cat Stripes Tote bag” online, directly from Seltzer Goods, a small company based in Asheville, North Carolina, and it is all made in USA. Since it only cost me 24 dollars, and obviously is awesome, I decided to buy the same bag for my mom’s birthday. I knew she’d love the look, size and remarkable resemblance to our beloved cat. And, I admit, I kind of love it when we secretly match (we live faaar apart y’all!).

The Seltzer Goods website is full of goodies, all with origin listed. Lots of 100% recycled paper cards with friendly dyes made in Canada, US made accessories, and Swiss-made pens. Totally sweat shop free and eco-aware.

They also pay it forward by supporting Earth Justice, a legal organization focusing on environmental causes – because the earth needs a good lawyer. Yay.

When you shop small, you discover the most amazing things.

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Selfie on my way out! Take note of my awesome, one-of-a-kind, handmade, Texan hand-warmers. A vintage-store find.

Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I’ve got (it’s not what you think)

This is the forth post in a five piece made in USA style series, featuring pictures of my beautiful friend Mary Beth. This week jewelry is on the agenda.

It is interesting because jewelry is both a sustainability hero and a sustainability zero if you ask me.

The cool (hero) part about the bling we own and wear is that it rarely goes out of style, and if it does, it is likely to come back in a few years, allowing us to wear it with confidence again. Jewelry lasts forever and no one can tell if a piece is old or brand new, making it a very sustainable and eco-friendly accessory to be worn over and over again, and passed down thru generations. Buying second hand clothing can be very intimidating, but thrifting for jewelry, I find is much easier. It is by far my favorite way to add new pieces to my accessories wardrobe. Not only is it the best eco-choice, but there are endless bargains to be made!

Jewelry is such a great way to complete an outfit, to make it feel more festive and put together. For the Made in USA style series, Mary Beth has been wearing artisan pieces she loves, in timeless designs.

Supporting small vendors, local artisans and craftsmen is definitely the next best option to buying second-hand jewelry in my opinion. The Purple Toadstool earrings ($20) we introduced in the first post are crafted in Texas, and the Gleeful Peacock necklace ($32) from the second post is handmade in Oklahoma. Two great quality, made in USA options with incredibly cheerful brand names!

The Purple Toadstool, Texas (left) & The Gleeful Peacock, Oklahoma (right)
The Purple Toadstool, Texas (left) & The Gleeful Peacock, Oklahoma (right)

Moving on to the not so great (zero) list of jewelry; at the top spot are diamonds (they’re not this girl’s best friends).

Roughly 49% of diamonds originate from Central and Southern Africa. Some of the politically unstable countries there are dealing with revolutionary groups who have taken control of the diamond mines, using proceeds from diamond sales to finance their operations. This is what is referred to as “blood diamonds” or “conflict diamonds”, which I am sure you’ve heard about (and maybe you’ve seen the movie with my eco-hero Leo DiCaprio).

According to what I have read, blood diamonds only constitute as low as 1% of all diamonds traded (2014 numbers), so buying a blood diamond by mistake is unlikely to happen. The problem still remains though, as it is of relative ease to smuggle diamonds across African borders and there are always buyers.

Diamonds are also considered clean when mined in nations that are not in a state of war or conflict, but whose diamonds have been mined using violent, unethical methods. Every day, more than a million diamond diggers in Africa endure dangerous and unfair working conditions, earning less than $1 a day, which is not enough to feed their families or sustain a healthy lifestyle. That sounds like “conflict diamonds” to me!

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Vintage jewelry shopping: eco-friendly and 100% conflict free!

With 49% of diamonds being from Africa, it is safe to assume that about half of the diamonds we see at the jewelers in the west are “clean”, but nonetheless unethical, slave labor stones. (Canada is a big producer as well, where I am sure better employment standards are used for diamond mining.)

With the help of Fairtrade International, a fair trade diamond standard is in the early stages of development, but not in place yet. (A Fair Trade (US), or Fairtrade (Europe) Certification ensures that the producers in developing countries get a fair price for their products. The goal of fair trade is to reduce poverty, provide for the ethical treatment of workers and farmers, and promote environmentally sustainable practices.)

Most of the silver in the world is produced in Mexico, and China ranks third largest supplier, after Peru. When it comes to gold, China is the biggest consumer AND the biggest producer in the world. Which brings us to the next zero on this list: gold.

According to Fairtrade International, ninety percent of the labor force involved in gold mining is made up of artisanal and small-scale miners who produce between 200-300 tons of gold each year. Around 70% of this is used to make jewelry, which consumers across the globe spend a whopping $135 billion a year on buying! (Don’t get me started on our overconsumption issues now! Jewelry will NEVER be a “need to have”.)

I do worry about the miners, in terms of fair wages and working conditions, but also about the environmental impact of gold mining. According to Brilliant Earth, by the use of dirty practices such as open pit mining and cyanide heap leaching, gold mining companies generate about 20 tons of toxic waste for every gold ring made (0.333 ounce of gold). And of course, there are also serious health risks associated with improper handling of toxic mercury and cyanide.

Small-scale miners and artisans, are at the end of a long and complex supply chain and for those working in remote locations, it can be difficult to sell their gold at a fair price. Fairtrade Certified Gold  is the world’s first independent ethical certification system for gold. The Standards include strict requirements on working conditions, health and safety, handling chemicals, women’s rights, child labor and protection of the environment.

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Whole Earth Provision Co. sells handmade, fair trade jewelry from World Finds!

I don’t know about you, but I don’t run into Fair Trade gold very often. And, most of the time, it is impossible to tell by the tag, how and where the raw materials of a piece of jewelry were made. Facts such as these are important to know, and should be kept in mind when one shops for jewelry. Maybe you don’t need another 20 tons of toxic waste on your finger, huh? Everything has an environmental footprint. 

Do you have a favorite handmade, artisan, eco-friendly, locally produced jewelry brand? Please leave a comment with a link to it, so we all can get inspired!

There’ll be a necklace again in next week’s post, I assure you, but mostly we’ll be talking shopping and smart outfits for busy moms. Come back and see us!

Read more about Fair Trade at Fair Trade USA