Tag Archives: shop small

A year later: The the ifs, ands and BUT(T)S of cloth diapering our tot

I think we can officially call ourselves a cloth diapering family now that we have been at if for a whole year. Turns out, it wasn’t nearly as hard or complicated as I thought it would be before we “did it”. The post I wrote last year, about three months in to it, still stands and you can read all the basics of cloth and my newborn baby hacks there.

So, a year later, here’s what’s up; ifs, ands and but(t)s included.

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The cloth diaper stash

First, the stash of diapers. We used all-in-one organic Thirsties diapers for newborn baby, but since he grew out of them (around 4 months) we’ve been using mostly BumGenius pocket diapers with Thirsties inserts (the hemp prefold or stay dry duo).

More info: Pocket diapers are like a shell/cover/non-absorbing diaper/undie with an opening/pocket, in which you slide in or stuff an insert – the absorbing part. An all-in-one on the other hand, requires no assembly. The absorbing layers are sewn into the shell/cover which saves time for busy parents but takes longer to dry after the wash.

I have a love/hate relationship with BumGenius.

I love them because they work so well, the quality is superb and they’re assembled in USA. The material is super easy to wipe off, spray off or just ‘dump’ the poop off of as well (more on this in the next section!). I also appreciate that they’re widely available in baby stores like Babies R’ Us and Buy Buy Baby. It’s nice to not have to buy everything “eco-friendly” online.

What I hate about them is that, if you buy them new, each diaper is individually packed in a plastic pouch, no organic materials are used and the inserts are actually made in China.

I got all my BumGenius second hand (eight diapers), meaning I have a super ‘green’ stash. We also have two Thirsties pocket diapers with Velcro close, one thirties all-in-one (that doesn’t fit baby real well) and one Blueberry Simplex organic all-in-one which I bought new online. Total of 13 diapers.

More info: Thirties and Blueberry diapers are made in USA! Diaper sprayers, wipes, bags and accessories are also available made right here. Cloth diapering routines support small businesses!

Toddler poop is not fun

As I wrote in my last post, nothing is simpler than when baby is newborn and poop is water soluble (if breastfed). When baby starts taking a bottle and/or you introduce solids, “things” change. (Trigger warning!) You now have to dump the poop in the toilet, which is a simple thing on a good day, but an impossible thing on a bad day (read diaper completely full of goo). On the bad days (which are most days – let me tell ya) we’ve been absolutely reliant on our diaper sprayer.

A sprayer is a little handheld “shower” you hook up to the water line in the toilet which allows you to “rinse” junk off into the toilet bowl to flush. Super convenient and necessary. After the rinse, into the wet bag the stained diaper goes.

You will always need a wet bag or some sort of container for keeping wet diapers until your next laundry day. For us, two large, American made wet bags from Planet Wise still work great. We fill one, empty it into the washer and fill the other while the first one is washing/drying.

We were lucky enough to inherit our diaper sprayer from a friend who’s kids are out of diapers. She wasn’t using it anymore and it works great. Another green win.

So what about wipes? For good days, reusable wipes; for bad days, disposables. I have found that I use his cotton, reusable wipes for everything but wiping his butt lately! Wiping baby hands, nose and face, blowing my own nose, wiping down the vanity. You name it. We are a Kleenex free home :)

More info: Our Samsung washer had a sanitize cycle which I use to wash dipers, inserts, wipes, wet bags, stained clothes, poopy clothes and reusable change pads. This cycle keeps everything looking and smelling like new, no special procedures needed. In other words, I cannot advice on needs to strain, get smells out, sun dry etc. I use Allen’s Naturally for all diaper loads.

Dealing with disposables

You may have noticed that we have way fever diapers for baby now than we did when he was a newborn. That’s because our boy goes to daycare now where cloth diapers are not allowed, meaning we need fever reusable diapers at home to sustain a comfortable laundry routine of washing every two to three days.

More info: I do send a medium size wet bag to school with August every day, for teachers to put any dirty clothes in. The option was a new-every-day-ziploc bag!

Will you fall off your chair if I also tell you that baby sleeps in a disposable?! He does. Our little man sleeps 7 pm to 5:30 am (most nights) and since parents love (and need) sleep and Netflix we can’t have him waking up due to feeling wet! When he was newborn and breastfed he woke up all the time anyway to eat, so changing the cloth diaper wasn’t an inconvenience. In fact, changing the diaper helps make the newborn more alert so he can stay awake longer while nursing, filling his little tummy more. (This further proves my point that cloth for a newborn is a no brainer and every new parent should do it.)

More info: Super Absorbent Polymers (“SAPs”) are what keeps a disposable diaper feeling dry so much longer than a cloth diaper does. Plant based disposable diapers have them, regular disposable diapers have them.  It is unclear if sufficient testing has been done to ensure that SAPs are non-toxic and safe for babies.

Not that I am in the business of recommending a disposable diaper brand, but we are using only Babyganics if anyone is wondering. They’re pretty much the only ones we’ve tried; they’re partly plant based (yada, yada, yada) and they work super well. Thanks to their essential oil blend, at least he never has diaper rash, which saves money, time, jars and tubes.

More info: Scientists have found that cloth diapers are not as warm as disposable diapers are. Up to a 5 degree butt temperature difference. The cooler the diaper, the better for boy babies’ testicular development.

Diapers and the environment

In my previous diaper post you can read all about how cloth versus disposables add up when it comes to pollution and resources. Spoiler alert: cloth wins.

So let me say this again: Any routine that involves reusables is a good routine.

I feel really warm and fuzzy about how much we are using reusables. Even though we go through quite a few disposables at daycare and nighttime, we are constantly using and washing the cloth diapers. Every time I pull diapers out of the dryer to fold and put back, I feel thankful for my washer and dryer and proud of how many diapers we are saving from landfill. That’s what it’s about: how many diapers we don’t consume and keep away from trash. We are not failures just because we can’t be 100% cloth. We are parents making it work.

Every saved diaper counts!

If you have any questions about cloth diapers or adding more reusable items to your baby’s routine, ask away!

It’s Small Business Saturday!

Today is Small Business Saturday! A day to remember our small community shops, farmers’ markets and locally owned businesses.

Made in USA menswear

I love Thanksgiving weekend because I have four days off work and we never have any plans. See, it’s not all bad not having any family in the country and not caring about football or Black Friday sales. (Speaking of which, I hope you decided to skip the stores yesterday and instead enjoyed your day with friends, family, Mother Nature or Netflix!)

I am all about shopping small though!

Actually, the core of my Not Made in China Challenge is to shop from small, local businesses using sustainable production practices and eco-friendly materials. The efforts I make to do that supports our communities; the tax-paying entrepreneurs, makers, builders and artisans living here.

Supporting a small family business might help them afford a trip, Spanish lessons, donating to a non-profit or get health insurance when/if the GOP takes it away! That’s powerful.

Basically, small business Saturday is about just that.

It’s about “Main Street not Wall Street”. (My favorite hashtag!)

So go explore everything small this Holiday Season! It will be less stressful than the mall, you may find something  handmade and meaningful to bring home or give away and end up having interesting conversations with friendly store owners while you’re at it. You can shop small online too! Check out some great brands here and local Texas’ makers here.

Just like Earth Day is everyday – Small Business Saturday is everyday too.

Wishing you all a great continuation of this Thanksgiving weekend!

 

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 ;)

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.

fair trade jewlery
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

Anna’s adventures in thrifting: From fuzzies to the perfect vintage dress

Resale apparel scares me. And I know I shouldn’t admit that because I’m an eco-girl who knows that buying previously owned clothes (instead of new) helps our environment. In my head, I am a cool thrifter, one that finds awesome deals, colorful items and makes them work. But that never really happens.

Last Saturday, I woke up in a go-get-them mood and decided to check out a resale shop and a farmers’ market on the other side of the lake, I hadn’t been to yet. Full of optimism and actually craving a bit of shopping (see this happens to everyone, also the low consumption folks :)) – I started at the resale shop:

  • Man, it’s unorganized in here.
  • Wow, that’s a bad print. Who bought that to begin with?
  • Ooops, I stepped on that purse. Hope no one saw me.
  • There goes all my inspiration. Bye, bye.
  • That cardigan is actually cute! But oh, it comes with a fuzzies-party.

Is it just me? Or is this a reflection of what is happening here? Would it be too much to ask that the store be tidy? That there’s a minimum acceptance level for the clothes they take in?

This happens to me over and over, and I don’t like it. People who live in ‘trendier’ areas of the country, or of this city for that matter, must have better luck thrifting than I do. I must not be the type of shopper the resale places are targeting, I may be too inside of the box for this. Or is it as simple as me being a spoiled shopper? (Hey, don’t answer that!)

I left the resale shop and went to the farmers’ market. To my surprise, in a strip mall located right by the market, I spotted a small “antiques” sign in front of a shop called Vintage Revival. Intrigued, I went in, browsed, and immediately said to myself; “I want to buy everything in here”.

Miraculously, when one goes from “resale” to “vintage”, the whole setting changes. The boutique was organized, cozy and smelled nice. Items gathered together – went together, and were set up in proper arrangements. Jewelry, clothes, deco, art, locally handmade soaps and creams, artisan crafts, and old photographs covered the place.  The few dresses they had, hanging inside of an antique closet, looked like they were taken from a Mad Man set. Which one must be mine!?

With earrings I "inherited" from my mom on right... and headband on the left.
With earrings I “inherited” from my mom (right) &  the original headband (left).

I decided that a round neckline, sleeveless vintage dress with orange and yellow flowers was the perfect choice for me. I tried it on and though the fit was not 100% perfect, I just loved it so much already that I had to take it home. The storeowner believed it was a custom-made dress from the 60’s and she was so happy I wanted it. It also came with a matching headband (which needed a few stitches at home to get back to its previous glory). There are no labels what so ever inside this dress, so not only previously owned, but also, most likely, made in America, handmade with love and one of a kind. Thus this dress hit the spot on all shopping rules, not forgetting “support small business”. Price tag? 15 American dollars. Oh, the excitement! (Of course I had my reusable bag with me, and recycled the paper receipt.)

This dress will we worn to work – dressed down with a cardigan – or worn in Mad Man style for parties, costume parties and around the house when I feel like being vintage-glam. Back when I lived closer to my grandma, I used to scavenge her closet all the time for hidden gems from the old days. Re-discovering my love for vintage made for a great, successful shopping excursion.

My Mad Men dress with my cigarette free hand.
My *NEW* Mad Men dress and a cigarette free hand. The pose seemed appropriate.

I will not give up on resale just yet. I will keep looking, checking, browsing and visiting the thrift stores, hoping that one day a gorgeous outfit will appear – fuzzies free.

I must overcome my resale fear, and frankly, my own judgmentalness. 2016 might be the year I will do just that. I’ll keep you (blog) posted :)

Style of the day: Just a little bit bossy

Before I went on the not made in China challenge, I had never bought a statement t-shirt. The shops I used to like and shop at never really had any cool ones, and I’ve never been the type to buy a random “Just do it” or “L’amour” style print. Where’s the statement in that?

Thanks to the challenge, I have broadened my horizon when it comes to clothes and shopping, and I have actually just bought my second statement tee. This time it’s right on the mark.

Nailed the posing again. Obviously.

It’s simple; I’m not bossy,  I am the boss. It is true that I do have two direct-reports at work, but that is not the kind of boss I’m talking about. I am the boss of so many things, just like most people. I’m the boss of my opinions, my style, my actions and my mood. I’m the boss of who I spend my time with, what I say, what I eat, what I trash, what I buy and what kind of people and businesses I support. AND I am the boss of my blog!

This cute one was printed in Washington State by Aleah Shop on a t-shirt made by Bella + Canvas, based in California (more west coast stuff!).

Before I bought this 20 dollar shirt, I emailed Aleah Shop and asked where the actual t-shirt was manufactured, hoping they wouldn’t reply “China”. Within an hour they got back with me and said: “Made in USA”. Grand!

Well, it was, until I got the t-shirt and the tag said “Made in Kenya”. I have nothing against Kenya, per say, but it wasn’t what I expected to see, and as you know, tags don’t lie (ok, sometimes they do, but that’s only when it’s in their favor to lie, like saying”Made in USA” when it’s not).

I decided to get back with Aleah Shop to let them know that the tee was in fact very imported. They replied to my email almost immediately, mortified, apologized many times and told me that in no way had they wanted to mislead me. Apparently the boxes they receive from Bella + Canvas with blank tees inside, say “Made in USA” on the box, and I guess they never noticed the actual tags…

Looking through the Bella + Canvas website; they do mention international locations along with their LA facility. A statement from that site says: “Kind tees are our kind of tees. Bella + Canvas has been manufacturing in the U.S. and internationally in a no-sweatshop, humane, sustainable way since day one. Doing things the right way has never been up for debate.”  They guarantee a 100% sweat-shop free tee, and say they make millions of shirts in the USA every year. I must admit, they sound like the kind of company I would support and promote, but stretching the truth with “Made in USA” labels on boxes is not cool. Period. And that’s not me being bossy.

Anyway. This t-shirt fits like a dream, feels amazing and looks so awesome. (My friend said it was cute, but I think it’s cool.) I am not sending it back – not over Kenya.

A more stylish one (?) of me in the new tee & an old trench coat I love.
A more stylish one (?) of me in the new tee & an old trench coat I love.

Aleah Shop has lots of other cute prints, like “Mom Life”, “Thankful” and “Girl Boss”to name a few, as well as coffee mugs with statements. Their customer service proved to be quite remarkable, obviously, talking to me A LOT about “all them tags”… So go check them out on Etsy (by clicking here) and support this small business!

 [Details in LookBook] (Photo credits: Shutterluv by Ashley.)

Seriously J.Crew? Again?

Why do you keep sending me your catalogue? I can’t buy ANYTHING in your stores.

IMG_3500

Before: J.Crew poster girl.

Now: No need to even browse.

I guess I should thank y’all for saving me so much money! I don’t need any more $70 knits, cardigans or shorts. And I sure as hell don’t need more dresses. So thanks!

And I do still wear all my favorites… all the time! Wear and wear out, then sell or give; that’s the plan for my made in China stuff.

Now if only you would stop wasting resources by sending me the catalogue.