My Friends Are Garment Makers: When "Fashion Revolution" Gets Personal

All photos in this post are courtesy of Nicola Harger Photography

The longer I'm here in the beautiful Philippines, the more personally connected to the cause of "fashion revolution" I become. In just a few short months, I've befriended women in the garment industry, met local, small ethical fashion businesses and listened to their struggles to survive and "make it" without compromising on fair wages, and have even gotten the inside scoop on the big fast fashion manufacturing factories here. 

And in the space of these past three months, I've gone from a generally-positive ethical-lifestyle promoter with a "yes! We can do this!" attitude to a pretty angry and slightly more angsty tortured social justice warrior (that's only half tounge-in-cheek). I find myself wanting to post long facebook rants about greed and capitalism far more often than I want to post about a brand or a new ethical living find. 

Why? Because now things are getting more personal. I've cared about the people behind my clothes ever since I started this ethical consumerism journey, but It's different, more intense, now that those people are my friends, now that they are people I've sung karaoke with and joked with and shared meals with. 

Last year when I launched A Beautiful Refuge I sat with my new friend M over steaming bowls of tinola and learned about how she was just a teenager when she started working in clothing manufacturing for brands like The Disney Company and Victoria's Secret. She made very little, and by the time she'd paid for her jeepney fare to and from the factory and for food there wasn't much left.

A few weeks ago I talked with K, another friend who worked in the garment industry before she was sucked into a life of commercial sexual exploitation through promise of more income and an easier method of survival. I felt a wave of hot anger pass through me as I thought of the wealthy high-level employees of the same multi-billion companies that "couldn't afford" to pay my friend and countless workers like her a few more dollars a month. "How can they live with themselves when their success comes at the expense of the broken lives of others"? 

I grabbed coffee in a mall recently with another new friend, C, who worked in the garment industry in the Philippines for two years before quitting just last week to form her own label + employ at least a few of the seamstresses she saw being treated unfairly in the factories where she worked. Here in the Philippines, the garment manufacturing industry isn't as large as other countries in Southeast Asia. Do you know why? Because big fashion companies don't want to pay the required minimum wage. And the required minimum wage here is not even a living wage- it's under 10 dollars a day! C told me how Express, one of the larger international fast fashion brands that has been manufacturing here in the Philippines for 17 years, is pulling out of the Philippines and moving their factories to Vietnam "because there are even less regulations there, and because they can pay an even lower wage". 

I mean, this is nothing new. I knew before moving here that Express didn't pay fair wages and that factory conditions weren't great in the Philippines... but moving from "I read some info on a website" to "my friend shared how this is affecting her life" kind of increased my level of investment.

And anger. 

So, what do I do with this anger? How do I turn it into something constructive? 

I can, for starters, continue paying fair wages to the women at A Beautiful Refuge (twice what other "fair trade" businesses I've visited here pay). I can continue tirelessly working to expand the business so that we can hire more women. 

Maybe, in the future, I can help start a factory. An actual fair wage factory, a completely transparent factory. One that can employ all of the skilled garment makers who are losing their jobs here in the Philippines. It's a dream that I'm actually taking (scary) steps toward with some friends.  

Aside from that, I can continue to take steps to weigh my own consumption, finding balance, and contributing my spending to worthwhile companies. 

Because that's all I know how to do, for now. 

Thanks for listening/reading. 

Zero Waste Hair Care

This post is brought to you in partnership with Numi Tea. I'm compensated for my work for Numi, a company that values all the workers + voices that bring Numi to you! 

Hi, I'm Hannah and I haven't purchased shampoo or conditioner in plastic bottles for 6 months! Establishing a zero-waste hair care routine that worked for me took a little time (and several failed attempts at the "no poo" method), but I think I've cracked the code! Here's what I'm currently using to keep my scalp clean and happy: 

1. Shampoo Bar

After trying a few shampoo bars that were a bit more "clean" with their ingredients but didn't work well for my hair, I settled on the bars I found at LUSH. My favorite is the Seanik bar, but I've tried a few others as well that were all great! I'm really happy with this option, even though there are a few ingredients that I could do without, because LUSH shampoos are available locally here in the Philippines (so I don't have to ship a tiny bar of soap across the ocean), and because they are SO easy to purchase completely packaging-free! 

2. Baking Soda and Vinegar

I really do use baking soda and vinegar for cleaning EVERYTHING! Even though the no-poo method didn't work well for me, I still occasionally wash my hair with a baking soda paste if I feel like there's any buildup. I make sure to condition with a diluted apple cider vinegar rinse, too! 

3. Tea Rinses

Sometimes my hair needs a little extra help. Between constantly being exposed to super-intense sunlight here in the Philippines, and the inevitable scalp-sweating that is causing me to experience a bit of dandruff (not normal for me!), my locks are taking a bit of a beating. I try to pamper my scalp every once in awhile, and one of my favorite ways to do that (because it's easy and I don't have to mix up multiple ingredients) is with tea rinses. Tea is naturally an astringent, which means that it helps break up excess oil on your scalp and in your hair follicles, and different types of tea have different benefits as well.  

Numi Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea is supposed to lighten and condition your hair. I first read about this in an herbalist's book when I was a teenager but didn't try it out until recently... I'm attempting to even out my unfortunately half-tone hair (the result of recklessly deciding to have my hair dyed- never again!). I'm not certain if it's just the time I've spent in the sun recently or if the tea is doing it's thing, but my hair is gaining some lighter streaks! 

Numi Mate Lemon Green Tea
The anti inflammatory properties of green tea help minimize dandruff, and invigorate your scalp. This one's my favorite. 

Numi Golden Chai Black Tea
The Caffeine in black tea helps to stop hair shedding by counteracting the hormones that cause your hair follicles to shrink and "kill" hair strands. You can use any black tea but this one smells SO amazing. 

To treat yourself to a tea hair treatment, steep 2 tea bags in a few cups of water. soak your hair with the mixture, and then wrap your head in a wet towel and let it sit for 30-45 minutes before rinsing out. If you try it, let me know how your hair reacts? What zero waste routines work for your hair? 

Zero Waste Kitchen Solutions from SuperBee

This post is in collaboration with SuperBee. I was not compensated for this post, but I was sent a free set of wax wraps to try. 


Plastic cling wrap and paper towels were two of the very last non-eco-friendly items still in our kitchen as we made the transition to a more zero-waste lifestyle. Andrew especially had a difficult time giving up the convenience of these two single-use, everyday products (how many 90’s-era kids didn’t grown up using paper towels constantly?).

IMG_0326.JPG

Finally, however, we cut ourselves off and stopped buying plastic wrap. For lack of a better alternative we started simply putting everything in glass jars in the refrigerator, but that’s not always ideal… It’s a bit difficult to fit a half-eaten sandwich or a block of cheese in a jar!

Enter SuperBee wax wraps. After trying to make my own wax wraps (and failing miserably- that’s another story for another time), I discovered this lovely, small and ethical company based in Thailand.

SuperBee wax wraps come in a variety of sizes and styles, and are made with only locally sourced and natural/biodegradable materials: 100% cotton, OTOP-certified pure beeswax, organic coconut oil, and tree resin. They’re easy to use, easy to clean, and affordable!

More important, still, than creating products that make zero-waste living easier for conscious consumers, SuperBee is providing good wages.

Going beyond just the bare minimum required by “fair trade”, SuperBee’s employees make 20% more than the living wage calculated by the Fair Trade Association. It’s a number that SuperBee founder Antoinette hopes will grow, as the company grows and more orders come in. In her words, “I believe generosity breeds prosperity”.

The women employed by SuperBee also enjoy the flexibility of bringing their kids along to work when they need to due to school holidays. 

Wax wraps aren’t sticky or messy, as you might assume, and they’re easily washed with warm water and mild soap. Because they form easily around whatever object you wrap, they can be used for everything from storing half an onion to covering a casserole dish!

I’ve mostly used mine for storing cut veggies- since I have a tiny refrigerator in my tiny apartment, it’s necessary for me to have space-saving solutions like this (I can only fit so many jars and bento boxes in there)!

I’ve come across several wax wrap brands, but SuperBee is by far the most transparent with regard to manufacturing, ingredients, and worker wages, AND the most stylish (there are colorful patterns to match any kitchen’s décor, as well as natural and earth-toned sets for the color-adverse like myself)- giving them my stamp of approval.

Check out SuperBee’s beautiful website to learn more about the SuperBee story!

SustainabiliTEA: Numi Talks Business

This post is brought to you in partnership with Numi Tea. I'm compensated for my work for Numi, a company that values all the workers + voices that bring Numi to you! 

If you've caught my angsty posts on social media lately, you'll know that I'm struggling with all the feelings of betrayal after discovering that some of the ethical companies I'd loved.... well, aren't really ethical. In the midst of this activist identity crisis (who can I trust? have I wasted my time?), Today's interview with Numi Organic Tea is giving me life. 

I've been thinking a lot about whether companies can remain "ethical" as they grow.  I had some tough questions for favorite tea brand (and long-time L+S+J collaborator) Numi to answer, and Numi's Director of Quality, Sourcing & Sustainability, Jane Franch,  graciously stepped up to answer them! Jane is currently leading the development of Numi’s climate initiative, among other exciting projects. Prior to Numi, Jane worked at SCS Global Services with clients large & small to develop, implement and maintain robust & credible ethical sourcing programs. Her work has taken her to 5 continents and countless villages, where she has had the privilege of getting to know the people and places that grow our tea, coffee, cocoa, coconuts, hazelnuts, mangos, and many other delicious treats.

Hannah: Numi has experienced some wonderful growth since the company’s beginnings in 1999. What have some of the challenges been in “scaling up” operations while still remaining true to Numi’s ethical standards?   

Jane: We’ve been fortunate in that as we’ve scaled, our suppliers have also grown with us. This is a reflection of the growth in general in the organic, socially certified CPG space. Nonetheless, we have faced challenges in scaling up, primarily related to material availability and managing costs. Because we place an emphasis on our supply chain partnerships and continuity in sourcing, and we require both organic and Fair Trade certification in most cases, we are sometimes faced with material shortages that limits our decision making. Similarly, as we’ve grown we’ve had to keep a keen focus on cost efficiency, which sometimes means prioritizing our sustainability objectives in terms of impact and value to the brand.

H: About how many workers are employed by Numi supply partners? How does Numi manage the company’s supply chain to ensure ethical treatment of everyone involved in the manufacturing of Numi Products?

J: To give an idea of the scope of our supply base, we currently source 150+ ingredients from 26+ countries, although ~75% by volume is coming from 6 distinct supply chains. Within those 6 distinct supply chains I would estimate there are approximately 7,000 farmers and/or workers.

When seeking new opportunities, whether on the customer side or the product development side, we lead with our mission and values. In terms of supply chain relationships, this boils down to knowing our suppliers, and making sure they know us as well. Before embarking on new supply chain relationships, we thoroughly vet potential partners through multiple onsite and remote meetings. Only once we’ve determined that we have a fit in terms of commitment to social impact and continuous improvement do we move forward with the relationship.  In addition to our up front emphasis on relationships, we approach ethical treatment of workers through a three avenues:

  • Numi Supplier Code of Conduct: our code of conduct outlines our expectations with regards to ethical conduct by our suppliers. All suppliers are provided with the Code of Conduct, and during site visits Numi representatives will conduct due diligence follow up as needed. Furthermore, where a supplier is working through a sub-supplier with whom Numi does not have a direct relationship, the primary supplier is responsible for implementing the Code of Conduct at the sub-supplier level.
  • Site visits: Among our core 6 supply chains, we visit each at least once on a three year cycle, although some supply chains we visit annually. By developing direct relationships with our suppliers, we better understand the challenges they may be facing, both in terms of delivering positive impact to the farming community or workforce, and delivering positive impact to the surrounding natural environment. Through this on the ground process, we can better identify opportunities to support the health and wellbeing of farmers, workers, and their families.
  • Certification: In addition to our Code of Conduct and face to face site visits with our key suppliers, we see certification as a valuable tool in further ensuring ethical practices within our supply chain. Currently, 67% of our product is socially certified by an independent 3rd party organization. 60% is Fair Trade certified through FLO-Cert, and 7% is Fair Labor Practices & Community Benefits verified through SCS Global Services. Certification offers robust and credible validation, and is particularly useful in those situations where perhaps our relationship to the producer is through an exporter or trader, and is not direct.

H: Do you think it’s possible for ethical companies to compete in a mainstream market without compromising ethics? If so, how? 

J: Yes, and Numi is a prime example. What we are seeing now is the values of the ethical consumer are becoming more mainstream, particularly as the millennial consumer comes of age. They are looking for companies with integrity who share their values, while also wanting a safe, clean product that tastes good.  Looking at Numi as an example, while we continue to be strong in the natural channels, we are also making inroads into the mainstream market, notably with stores such as Target and Kroger. The natural products industry is booming and becoming more mainstream to the average consumer; brands with certifications are now widely available across all categories and natural product sales grew by nearly 8% in the U.S. in 2016.

Price continues to be a challenge, and yet trends are also showing that consumers are willing to pay more for a premium ethical product if they have a high degree of trust in the brand and the values are aligned with their own.

H: Numi sells wholesale with several large retailers. Does the way that the wholesale system currently works lend itself well to fair wages for all? With so many “cuts” being taken by the various hands involved in the wholesale deal, how do you ensure that workers still get their fair “cut”?

J: Notwithstanding the challenges inherent in the current distribution model, Numi has a firm commitment to ensure that we are paying fair prices for our raw ingredients. This emphasis on the ingredients ensures that farmers and workers are getting a fair deal, and that consumers are also getting the most premium product available. This sometimes means that we have to cut costs in other ways, usually through simple packaging rather than fancy tins and canisters. We also evaluate new sales opportunities and product development ideas with the ingredients in mind, and avoid opportunities that would compromise our values and commitments at origin.

H: Can a large ethical company still be a “slow” company (in relation to the “slow food” movement)?

J: Thinking about the slow food movement as a return to local food traditions and knowing where your food comes from, I think it depends on the company. We are seeing industry-wide – and have for some time now – a trend towards transparent, traceable supply chains. From an organics and food safety standpoint, these supply chains have always been traceable, it’s the transparent piece that is new, and driven by both consumer demand and the growing awareness among brands that it makes good business sense to know your suppliers.

I would consider Numi a small to medium sized company. For us, our values have been at the center of our decision making every step of the way. As we’ve grown, so too has the list of spices, herbs and florals that we are incorporating into our blends. While we have maintained those close, direct relationships with the farms providing our top ingredients – green tea, black tea, puerh, mint, chamomile, rooibos, and turmeric – we’ve had to rely on our blending partners to source high quality, ethical ingredients for the minor spices, etc. This is part of the reason we developed our Code of Conduct, to ensure that our values were present even when we could not be present ourselves to meet the farmers, workers, and processors.

H: Let’s talk about packaging and shipping. How can larger companies reduce or offset the inevitable footprint of these areas of their operations?

J: We approach this through “reduce what we can, offset the rest”. Meaning, we reduce unnecessary packaging, both in our finished consumer goods and in the inevitable upstream shipping materials. Our purchasing and production schedule is designed for efficiency such that we are buying and shipping by the container/truck load and/or pallet load most of the time. This helps to avoid unnecessary emissions from partial shipments or air shipments that might be more typical in a “just in time” purchasing model.

We also do an annual calculation of our shipping emissions and offset these with verified carbon credits through the Carbonfund.org. Since we started offsetting in 2011, we have offset nearly 5 million pounds of CO2 equivalent. Currently, our purchased credits are supporting a small-scale hydro project in India and a wind farm in China.

Our vision for the future is to inset all of our scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions in our own supply chain through adoption or amplification of carbon sequestering regenerative farming practices with our key suppliers. Not only does this have a tremendous potential to reduce the impacts of climate change, it also supports the health and wellbeing of our farming communities by building productive, healthy, biodiverse farm ecosystems.

H: For Numi, how necessary is plastic/non-biodegradable packaging? Is the use of plastic materials limited?

J: Over the years, we have worked to drive innovation in sustainable packaging. We are proud of our achievements as a market leader in the use of 85%+ postconsumer waste paperboard for our cartons, SFI certified corrugate for our shipping boxes, biodegradable non-GMO filter paper for our teabags, and recycledpaper in our teabag overwrap. However, we are also mindful of the need to preserve product freshness so that the premium quality of the product is maintained all the way through to the end consumer. This has been a challenge with our overwrap, which is a 3-layer material with paper, foil and a petroleum based freshness sealant. Through the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and OSC2, we’ve worked with like-minded brands and the packaging industry to develop a biodegradable, non-GMO flexible packaging material that ensures quality while also delivering on sustainability. We are currently testing this material and hope to launch it in our finished products sometime next year.

On the upstream side, our challenge is the shrink wrap that is used to hold a pallet load together. For pallets coming to us in Oakland we have found a recycler that accepts this grade of plastics for recycling, however this is not a perfect solution. Often these lower quality plastics are difficult to recycle into any usable secondary product, and the required energy and associated emissions from doing so can outweigh the benefits. We’d love to see a market innovation for a non-petroleum, renewable shrink wrap alternative. Any ideas out there? 

H: Finally, within your role at Numi, what are you the most passionate about, personally?

J: Personally I am most at home on the farm. I love walking the farm with the farmers and workers, learning about how and why they manage the way they do, being inspired by their passion for organics and land stewardship. And building communi’tea with the faces and places where our tea, herbs, and spices are grown. There is so much we have in common as people, and so much beauty in our differences. Working for Numi I have the privilege and opportunity to celebrate our shared values while doing business for good.

H: Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Life+Style+Justice audience?

Keep drinking Numi tea, and keep asking questions! It’s up to consumers like each of you to hold brands accountable and strive towards the vision of an equitable, ethical economy. 

Workwear, Beachwear, Casual Wear, These Ethically Made Silk Shirts Do It All!

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post, but The Fable sent me the featured tops for review. 

I was immediately impressed when I discovered The Fable brand. First, they carry all my favorite colors: black! white! navy blue! grey! Second, they fill a niche that's lacking in the ethical fashion industry- classy, affordable silk tops (yes, we have Everlane, but their somewhat dubious ethics have made some conscious consumers, myself included, wary about buying from them. Third, the transparency on their website is fantastic, complete with photos of the process of manufacturing each of their signature pieces. 

If you've been following me for any length of time, you know that I love versatile pieces (my tiny wardrobe is full of items that can work for just about any style, and everything in my wardrobe is pretty regularly rotated- I don't believe in "special occasion" clothes that only get trotted out once in awhile). 

I have been loving The Fable's silk tops, for that reason: They are amazing, neutral basics that can be added to any outfit! So far I've styled mine (the true white and dalmatian sleeveless options): 
-Under a suit
-As beachwear, thrown on open over a bikini and paired with slouchy pants
-Tied casually over sundresses
-Paired with dress slacks and a sweater for the office
-With ripped jean shorts and sunglasses
and I'm sure there are many combinations I haven't even thought of yet! 

The silk isn't fragile or see-through- It's surprisingly sturdy. I've been hand washing my The Fable tops in a bucket, as I do with most of my clothing here in the Philippines, and hanging them out to dry on my balcony with no issues whatsoever. 

I really appreciate the fact that I don't have to dry clean my tops, or "save" them for only office wear because I'm worried about ruining them.

The Fable shirts are designed in Australia and manufactured in Jaipur, India, under ethical labor standards. Tailors are paid double the standard "living wage" in India, never work longer than 8 hour days, and work in a well-ventilated, comfortable space with breaks for tea and company-provided lunch throughout the day. 

The fabric and buttons used for Fable shirts are dyed using low-impact, vegetable based dyes, but still come out with vibrant, deep hues. 

I love that The Fable shares photos not only of the skilled tailors who sew the shirts sold in the online shop, but photos of the workspace and sewing areas as well. It's so wonderful when brands are brave enough (or have enough integrity, really!) to give a glimpse into the reality of what goes on behind the scenes. 

The Fable shirts retail for $95.00-$125.00 (though some are currently on sale). Shipping is complimentary within Australia and New Zealand, and affordable everywhere else (only $10.00 to ship to the USA). 

I hope that these ethically made shirts fill a wardrobe gap for you like they did for me!

Two Weeks in the Philippines: An Update

It's been two and a half weeks since we landed in the Philippines. I wake up every morning blown away by how lucky I am to be here, and excited to start another day of learning and working and exploring. A few of the highlights so far have been: 

Discovering the Sunday market near our apartment. Fresh fruits and veggies in abundance (most of which I can buy without plastic, farmers' market style), beautiful plants and flowers, handcrafted goods, and FOOD STANDS. I'm slowly working on trying something from each vendor's stall. There are lots of healthy/sustainable options- from raw vegan brownies to raw milk and cheese to a huge variety of glass-bottled kombucha and probiotic drinks. 

Catching up at the shop! It's been wonderful to kick things into gear at the shop. We've started off the year by making some improvements to our workshop- a new floor to help with dust issues, a window (we had to knock a huge hole in the wall to install this in our previously windowless space!), and a new sewing machine. We're working on new products (lots of zero waste living products like cloth napkins and produce bags, and new tee designs) and planning for the next 6 months. We were able to just spend some time hanging out with the A Beautiful Refuge ladies and their kids, too, which was wonderful. Little Ryan had a birthday party and we enjoyed a huge feast and games (check out the video below to see Andrew and our friend Andy helping out with the Filipino version of the piñata). 

Hiking and camping in beautiful surroundings. Some of our wonderful new friends here invited us to join them on a quick weekend camping trip to BangKong Kahoy, a campsite and retreat nestled between two mountains. We had such a blast hiking up a mountain to taste the healing waters that flow there, road tripping while blasting 80's music, feasting on fresh, sustainably farmed food, and camping in the mountain air while listening to the rain fall on our tent. We got to meet and learn from the wisdom of the land's caretaker and water protector, and be inspired by his passion for caring for the environment.

Discovering new ethical brands. There are so many wonderful small local brands based in the area I'm living and I'm having so much fun getting to know them all! From clothing to bags to home goods to food, there's a rich variety of startups who are focused on ethics and sustainability. 

Getting into our new ethical living routine. It's been pretty easy to set ourselves up for minimal-waste living. There's a wonderful shop within walking distance, Ritual, that sells bulk items like all-natural laundry powder and baking soda, as well as cleaning supplies packed in recycled gin bottles and natural fiber brushes. I'll post an update soon on the product I've been using! 

Tiny apartment living has been awesome so far. Our space, measuring in units of Andrew, is about 1.5 Andrew's wide, and 3.5 Andrew's long. WE LOVE IT. It helps to have minimal belongings, as it's easy to keep the space feeling uncluttered and organized. 

Andrew put together this wonderful little video blog showing some glimpses of our life here over the past two weeks, hope you enjoy! 

Sloths, Toucans, and Trees that Walk: how Sumak Travel changed my perspective on DIY travel.

This post is on of several in a series on ethical tourism in Costa Rica, written by myself as well as Kasi (The Peahen Blog) and Simone (The Ethereal Edit).

To learn more about our experience with Sumak Travel, read Simone's post on Finca Sura organic farm, my posts on visiting San Jose and the Juanilama Community, and Kasi's posts on slow food and secondhand fashion

Hills surrounding Arenal volcano

Hills surrounding Arenal volcano

I watched a lot of nature documentaries as a kid, so the rainforest was pretty close to how I'd pictured it before visiting Costa Rica and experiencing it for the first time in real life. 

There were a few things that I didn't expect, however. The darkness, first of all. The tree canopy overhead is so thick that even on a bright, sunny day not much light filters down to the forest floor. Second, I didn't quite expect to feel so emotional while trekking, but I found myself quite overwhelmed by the beauty of nature, awed by the sheer diversity of plants and wildlife, and sobered as I thought of all the beautiful rainforest areas that have been destroyed or are in danger of disappearing. 
 

View from the rainforest trails near Arenal volcano 

View from the rainforest trails near Arenal volcano 

Third, I didn't expect to have my travel perspective changed. You see, I've always been a fiercely independent, DIY traveler. I love lists, I love planning, I love the thrill of showing up somewhere I've never been and navigating my way through a well-thought-out itinerary.

But then I met Jose Pablo, our guide booked through Sumak Travel. I love being around people who are truly passionate about what they do, and Jose certainly fits that description. His love for the wildlife, culture, history, and people of Costa Rica is apparent, and his knowledge on each of those subjects is extensive. I quickly realized that without Jose's guidance my experience would have been much less rich and informative. 

Jose Pablo teaching the group about how cinnamon is produced

Jose Pablo teaching the group about how cinnamon is produced

On our first day, as I traveled with Kasi, Simone, and the Sumak Travel team to our first destination (a sustainable farm), The van suddenly came to a halt. Jose excitedly got out, grabbed his telescope, and pointed toward a tall, scraggly tree near the road. Sure enough, a sloth was perched in the highest branches, scratching itself sleepily. 

The next day we woke up early and headed out to see the toucans we could hear squawking in the trees. I would have missed most of the bright flashes indicating their presence in the branches above us, had it not been for our guide's practiced eye. Seeing toucans, creatures I'd only seen caged at a zoo, flying freely in their natural habitat was breathtaking! 

The day before my group flew home, we visited Arenal volcano. The weather was rainy and grey, and we couldn't actually see the volcano through the mist... but our hike certainly wasn't ruined. As we walked the muddied trails at the volcano's base, Jose showed us medicinal plants, identified bird calls, educated us on the history of the volcano, and regaled us with tales of jungle trees that "walk" toward sunlight (moving and stretching in minuscule increments, but still!). 

Our other guides during our Arenal Volcano experience- horses that took us on a trail ride through the rainforest. 

Our other guides during our Arenal Volcano experience- horses that took us on a trail ride through the rainforest. 

Each of these moments would have been a moment that I would have missed out on, had I chosen to travel on my own. I'm immensely grateful to Sumak Travel and to Jose for showing me the value of enlisting a local guide- I've actually already booked local guides for several upcoming trips because of my experience with Sumak.  

Kasi and I during our horse riding excursion 

Kasi and I during our horse riding excursion 

If you want to experience South America through the eyes of a local guide, choose from one of the 12 countries where Sumak Travel offers trips, and start planning your adventure! 

SUMAK TRAVEL
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Phone: 844-677-7010 (US Toll Free)
Email: enquiries@sumak-travel.org

The Bright Side To Filing Your Taxes

This post is sponsored by the team at 1040.com. All opinions are my own. 

Tax season. The time of year that strikes fear into the hearts of small business owners everywhere. Or at least mine. Though I track income and expenses religiously, pay my estimated taxes quarterly, and do everything right, I'm still always a little freaked out that I'm going to miss something important when I file (or get audited. I've had nightmares about IRS audits.).

I've resigned myself to the fact that I'm always going to be a bit stressed about taxes, and I'll take any little ray of sunshine that I can find to make the hassle just a little bit less dramatic. This year, that ray of sunshine appeared as an email from 1040.com, a give-back online tax filing service. I'm a big believer in the idea of doing a little bit of good with your mundane, every day decisions, something I've written about here on the blog many times, and I think it's so cool that something as simple as clicking over to a different tax filing website than the one you usually use can result in a donation to a worthy cause. 

Here are 4 reasons to feel great about filing your taxes with 1040.com. 

1. Your tax return will give back. 
$2 per return (even if your return is free and you don't pay a cent!) is donated to Healing Waters International to provide clean water to communities without current access to a safe water source. Read more about why clean water is so important on the 1040.com website! Last year 1040.com donated 2.6 million gallons of clean water. That's a whole year of clean water for almost 15,000 people.

2. Say it with me: transparent pricing.
Have you ever started filing your taxes through one of the "free" services online, spent time filling in all your information, and then discovered that your return isn't free anymore? 1040.com won't sneakily bump up the price for your return with hidden fees- all of their pricing information is displayed prominently on their website for anyone to view. Simple returns are free, but some returns may move up a pricing tier based on their complexity. Satisfaction is guaranteed! 

3. You won't need to worry about messing up. 
Unlike some online tax filing services, 1040.com is easy for small business owners to use. The system will prompt you to enter 1099-MISC information, it supports all related forms for business filers (Schedule C, Office in Home, Depreciation, etc…), and 1040.com's tax guide is a great resource to get help along the way. Developing a track catered specifically to small business owners is in the works for 1040.com next year (yippee!), and in the meantime, all guarantees and resources are available to every customer regardless of occupation.

4. You'll be in good hands.
The 1040.com team is composed of real, friendly, helpful people who care about sustainability and ethics. 1040.com's headquarters are in Franklin, NC, deep in the Appalachian mountains. The company culture is steeped in nature, conservation, and community service. When North Carolina experienced a heavy drought and wildfires, 1040.com's parent company cleared an entire building for the firefighters to headquarter and sleep in and provided computers, phones, and internet. The 1040.com team is also hands-on with the international work that they support through donations to Healing Water International, traveling to Guatemala to see the impact of those donations first hand. 

If filing your taxes is on your to-do list, why not file them through 1040.com

ROUND + SQUARE: Funding Equality Through Fashion

Women’s equality is in the spotlight right now-with the Women’s March drawing at least 4.8 million women to make our voices heard, how could it not be?

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But what happens when the rallies are over, the buzz from the march wears off? Many newly minted activists will struggle to know how they can continue to make an active effort to facilitate change. I always give the same advice: start where you’re at. Use what you have. Take a look at your lifestyle and tweak it to make it work for justice. I always admire women who are working quietly, steadily in the background through their own professions to promote justice work.

My newest discovery in ethical brands is ROUND + SQUARE. ROUND + SQUARE is a bold and modern brand with a luxury designer feel. Dreamed up by designer Henriette Ernst, the colorful, playful designs offered by ROUND + SQUARE include hand-embroidered pins, silk scarves, and cotton tees. I love how Henriette is using her talent within her profession to support the causes she cares about, and I am more than happy to support her brand! 

30% of all profits to Equality Now, a wonderful organization focusing on gender equality and tackling tough human rights issues like female genital mutilation, sex trafficking, and other injustices that disproportionately affect women. 30% is a much higher donation margin than many give-back companies use, and I love the fact that more than just a few cents of my purchase are going to support a worthy cause.

I decided to try out one of ROUND + SQUARE’s silk bandanas, the Let's Make Equality Reality design in Navy. I love the dainty stitching around the edges and the fun graphic print! I’ve worn it several different ways so far, but primarily as a headband or a neckerchief. I love the way that it dresses down a suit a bit- I’m working in an office now where I feel comfortable in slightly more business-y attire, but I still want to retain a touch of quirkiness

 

All in all, the designs are fabrics are wonderful, and the give-back element ofROUND + SQUARE is impactful. Check the brand out for yourself on the web or on Instagram! You can also read a review on ROUND + SQUARE tees and pins from my Ethical Influencer Network friend Natalie of Sustainably Chic here

JORD Eco Friendly Watches

Disclosure: I received a watch from JORD for review. All opinions my own. 

Watches without plastic, batteries, or difficult-to-recycle electronic elements are difficult to find (and are often made questionably, though costing thousands of dollars at fancy watch stores). JORD wooden watches are the perfect solution for the conscious consumer.  

Andrew recently received a watch from JORD's Dover series, and I asked him to write a quick review on his experience as a JORD watch owner:

"The craftsmanship of the Dover watch is beautiful in many ways- from the choice of wood used in the band (Olive + Acacia) to the intricate gear work that is visible from both the face and back of the case.

One of the ways I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with the watch is the maintenance of the watch! Don’t take that the wrong way- it’s a rugged watch that's meant to be worn everyday. But it also requires care- oiling the wood, storing it appropriately, taking care to not subject it to quick temperature changes or lots of water because it’s wood and it will expand and contract."

As an ethical company, JORD company policies protect their workers as well as the environment. The wood used for the watch bands is sourced from many places, but the greatest and most substantial source is reclaimed furniture remnants. The watch face elements are made in China. The workshop is supervised directly by JORD, and because of that they are able to dictate the pay of the workers, which is well above average, and the quality of the parts produced. Assembly is done in St. Louis, MO, providing good paying jobs both overseas and state side. JORD is a good example of what companies should be, in a world filled with fast fashion and throwaway mentality.  

CLICK HERE to enter to win a store credit at JORD! One lucky winner will receive $100.00 to spend at JORD, and all other entrants will receive a $25 credit once the contest ends, just for entering! 

Sentimental Value: Northwood Rings

Some of my most often-received emails through Life+Style+Justice are questions about where to find ethically made wedding and engagement rings. I'm happy to be partnering with Northwood Rings to bring you this post, in plenty of time for valentine's day/engagement season! Use code LSJ2017 for 10% off your order at Northwood Rings until Feb 6, 2017. 

I'm just going to admit it- Andrew and I are ridiculously sentimental. We love being in love, we love collecting photographs and love letters, we love reminiscing about past adventures and planning new ones together. When we were downsizing recently to prepare for our big move, we sold or gave away most of our belongings. Our remaining stuff fits into 9 boxes, which are filled with the following: 

3 boxes: dishes and kitchen things
1 box: winter clothing and boots
3 boxes: Books and board games
1 box: assorted household goods
1 box: sentimental items: letters, a doll my grandmother gave to me, a family recipe book, my wedding dress, etc. 

Even as a minimalist in many ways, I still think it's important to make room in our lives for items that might not be "necessary" but are meaningful and bring us joy. For example: Andrew and I seriously considered not purchasing wedding rings at all when we were married (we were this close to just getting matching tattoos!), but ended up deciding that we valued the sentimentality and meaning behind them enough to invest in something beautiful and ethically sourced that would serve as an heirloom for years to come.  

Even though we wanted to purchase rings that were quality and would last a lifetime, Andrew and I agreed that we didn't want to spend much money. The diamond industry, in addition to being exploitative toward workers within the industry, is a bit of a scam. I think it's a bit awful that couples are expected to spend an average of nearly $5000.00 on a shiny bit of rock, anyway. I can think of so many other ways to spend that kind of cash. 

So were two in-love conscious consumers to do? We looked around a bit and found a solution that we felt good about: my engagement ring is an old 1920's vintage piece, and Andrew's band was made by an independent artist from recycled silver. 

My wedding band was the one slight dud- I just got a $30.00 little silver band off Etsy to pair with my engagement ring... It worked for awhile, but over the past 3.5 the design on the band has gotten a bit worn. I'd started looking for a simple replacement (but heirloom quality this time!) when I came across Northwood Rings.

Northwood Rings makes alternative wedding, engagement or just any-occasion rings from a combination of bent wood, precious metals, and stones or shells. Prices range from under $200.00 to around $600.00. Northwood offers care for life, ensuring that your ring will last. 

My band from Northwood has a sterling silver liner and a malachite inlay set in in ebony wood. It's a beautiful and eco friendly alternative to a traditional band, and I love the smooth glossy finish! 

Check out all of Northwood Rings' eye-catching designs on their website! If you're in the market for an ethically made engagement ring that fits your values, Northwood Rings might be the right choice for you! Use code LSJ2017 for 10% off your order at Northwood Rings until Feb 6, 2017. 

Stay Warm on Your Next Adventure with Ramblers Way

This post is sponsored by Ramblers Way. All opinions are my own! A big thank you to Ramblers Way for supporting my work through Life+Style+Justice. 

Ramblers Way Wool Scoop Neck Henley- $35.00

Ramblers Way Wool Scoop Neck Henley- $35.00

You know what's difficult to find ethically sourced? Adventure/hiking/cold weather gear. Most of my winter gear is quite old and was sourced from conventional brands- I just couldn't find an affordable, ethical option for some pieces at the time I needed to buy them. Particularly my snow boots, my winter coat, and my long johns (that's thermal long underwear used as a base layer, for all of you readers lucky enough to live somewhere warm enough not to need it). 

Now that I'm beginning to need to replace some of my cold weather gear, I'm excited to have more options than I did when I first started shopping ethically. Many newer ethical companies are attempting to fill the outdoor adventure gear gap! 

One such company is Ramblers Way, founded by Tom Chappell (yes, that Tom). Ramblers Way primarily offers woolen garments, made from super-fine wool that is soft enough to wear right next to your skin without feeling itchy or rough. 90% of the wool used by Ramblers Way is sourced from ethical ranchers in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada and Texas. The remaining 10% is sourced from Australia and Argentina and is GOTS certified.

It's also worth mentioning that the cotton garments available from Ramblers way (mostly tops and dresses for women and shirts for men) are made from almost entirely from pima cotton grown in California’s San Joaquin Valley using pesticide-free and low water growing methods. 

Ramblers Way 2-ply Wool Turtleneck- $95.00

Ramblers Way 2-ply Wool Turtleneck- $95.00

Ramblers Way 2-ply Wool Turtleneck- $95.00 

Ramblers Way 2-ply Wool Turtleneck- $95.00 

Ramblers Way's ethics check out, what about the performance of the actual garments? I had the chance to test out some woolen pieces from Ramblers Way in frigid Minnesota temperatures, coming to the following conclusions: 

Ramblers Way V-Neck Wool Tunic Sweater, $125.00

Ramblers Way V-Neck Wool Tunic Sweater, $125.00

Pros: 

  • They're not kidding about how soft the wool is! My skin is pretty sensitive and I usually hate wool sweaters. I can wear this stuff all day and be perfectly comfortable. 
  • It's warm. Especially the 2-ply turtleneck, since it's double thickness. 
  • The cuts are classic, and everything is really well-constructed! 
  • The wool fabric does a fantastic job wicking away moisture and keeping odor at bay. I feel like I could complete several sweaty hikes in a Ramblers Way shirt without it getting stinky, which is something that you can't say about synthetic outdoor gear, in my experience.

Cons: 

  • Though most Ramblers Way garments are machine washable (unlike many wool garments!), you'll need to hand wash some of them. This isn't a big deal for me since I try to hand wash as much as I can- however, make sure that you check the care instructions if it's important to you to have only machine washable clothes. 
  • If you choose black garments, like I did, make sure you have a lint brush! Wool likes to "grab" stuff. 
Ramblers Way Wool Vneck Tank Top -$35.00

Ramblers Way Wool Vneck Tank Top -$35.00

Ramblers Way Wool French Terry Tapered Pant -$130.00 

Ramblers Way Wool French Terry Tapered Pant -$130.00 

My favorite pieces out of the five that I tested are definitely the tunic sweater and the scoop neck henley. Both are extremely lightweight, the fit is fantastic, and they work well with the other pieces in my wardrobe. The french terry tapered pant deserves an honorable mention, as well, for being warm and comfortable, yet classy enough to wear out of the house. I'm going to be wearing them on my upcoming 13-hour plane flight to the Philippines- it's always freezing cold on long flights and I'm looking forward to be toasty warm! 

Ramblers Way Wool Scoop Neck Henley- $35.00 

Ramblers Way Wool Scoop Neck Henley- $35.00 

Check out Ramblers Way on Facebook  and Instagram

The {Ethical} Pants That Changed Me- Golden Rule Boutique

This post is sponsored by The Golden Rule Boutique! All opinions are my own. I'm so thankful for the businesses that partner with Life+Style+Justice to make this platform a possibility! 

My style has always been pretty traditional. I've sort of gravitated away from flowy, bohemian styles because I rarely find an item in that category that works well for me and that I really feel comfortable in. I love the free-spirited, adventurous look, but I just couldn't pull it off. 

 Then I met these pants - the Taru Black Yoga Stretch Pants from The Golden Rule Boutique. So soft. So stretchy. And I really like the way they fit and feel! They're roomy without making me feel like I'm drowning in fabric, and the fitted ankles and waist/hip area keep my petite frame from looking shapeless. 

The pants are made ethically in Thailand, and a portion of sales go toward rescuing elephants (these would make a great gift for your favorite animal-loving, vegan, yogi friend)! The seamstresses who sew these "elephant pants" are paid double the standard wage and provided with health care. 

At $28.00, these pants are super affordable, as well. You'll actually find plenty of pieces for around $30.00 through The Golden Rule Boutique- a rarity in ethical stores. A few favorites that stood out to me as I was browsing the shop are this beautiful striped maxi dress for $24.75, and these zero waste leggings from one of my favorite ethical brands, Tonle, for $22.50! 

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I'm planning on mostly wearing my new boho pants for yoga (I've been wanting a pair of loose yoga pants for awhile, I've only ever had tight-fitting leggings), but I also think they work well dressed up to wear out. I mean, who doesn't want to look put-together but feel like they're wearing the most comfortable pajamas ever? 

You can check out all the The Golden Rule Boutique has to offer through their website, facebook, or instagram accounts! 

Living A Conscious Life: Detox

This post is sponsored by Life+Style+Justice partner Numi Organic Tea. Get 15% off matcha teas through January 20th (and make your own ethically sourced matcha lattes! 

Detox. Ridding one's life or body of unhealthy or toxic things. I think that regularly pausing and taking stock of the things that need to be removed or improved from your lifestyle is an important practice for conscious living. 

I've been pondering this a lot lately, as I sort of formulate a new life-rhythm while navigating some big changes in my normal routine. I feel quite content with where my lifestyle is at, currently, but that doesn't stop me from identifying areas to work on- I'm a fan of constant learning and growth! 

1. I want to attempt to give myself *actual* days off and vacation/sick days this year. 
Being a small business owner has its perks (freedom to set my own hours, freedom to only do the work I'm really passionate about, freedom to travel and move around), but for the past few years it's meant constant hustle for me, too. I haven't traveled without my work laptop, I've rarely taken a weekend entirely off... Though I don't mind hard work (I thrive on it!), I don't want to be constantly overworked anymore. 

2. I want to work on my relationship with stuff. 
You might think, given my relatively tiny wardrobe and minimal shopping habits that I've conquered my bad consumerism habits. The truth is, I'm still not where I'd like to be with contentment. I still crave stuff, I still depend on stuff to make me feel good at times, and I still think that stuff has too much of a hold in my life. Selling and giving away pretty much all of my stuff in preparation for my big move has been so freeing, and I want to continue exploring that free feeling this year. 

3. I want to say "no" more.
If it's not something that I am passionate about, I want to say no. If it's not something I can realistically do or help with (most often because I can't commit the time), I want to say no. 

4. I want to Detox physically as well as emotionally and spiritually.
When I physically detox, it's easier for me to tackle the more difficult emotionally-based stuff. It's clear that when my body is functioning well, my mind functions better, too! A few of my favorite ways to let my body rest, heal, and detox are:  

  • Drink lots of tea. My favorite routine is to drink Numi ginger lemon green tea in the morning with a few lemon slices, a drizzle of raw honey, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. This month, I'm attempting to drink green tea every day (more on that later) for health and energy. 
  • Incorporate spiritual fasting into my routine. I used to fast and pray+meditate several times a month. I've slowly gotten away from this practice, but want to reincorporate it! Granted, I do this for the spiritual aspect, mostly, but it's so helpful for the health of the body as well! 
  • Say no to sugar. Though detoxing from sugar is hard (there's sugar in everything!) It's a wonderful way to re-set the body. 

What do you need to rid your life of this season? 

Conscious City Guide: San Jose, Costa Rica with Sumak Travel

This post is on of several in a series on ethical tourism in Costa Rica, written by myself as well as Kasi (The Peahen Blog) and Simone (The Ethereal Edit).

To learn more about our experience with Sumak Travel, read Simone's post on Finca Sura organic farm, my post on the Juanilama Community, and Kasi's posts on slow food and secondhand fashion


After visiting Costa Rica on a trip coordinated by ethical travel agency Sumak Travel, I can attest to the fact that this beautiful country is a conscious consumer's paradise. Fresh, organic, farm-to-table food? Check. An abundance of eco-friendly lodging options? Check.

There are many opportunities to use your travel time to support small businesses and local initiatives focused on rainforest conservation, something that is so, so important given the rate at which the world's forests are disappearing

Of course, you'll want to spend time in nature while visiting Costa Rica, but don't skip over soaking in a little city culture in San Jose! This vibrant city is nothing but a quick stopover for many travelers, who head straight out to other areas once their planes have landed, but don't underestimate it: San Jose is full of surprises, with lots to do and see. 

My friends at Sumak Travel have kindly helped me pull together a list of some of the highlights! 

EAT + DRINK 

Al Mercat

Al Mercat offers an elevated twist on traditional Costa Rican dishes. I visited Al Mercat on my first evening in San Jose and enjoyed a wonderful sampling of mostly veggie-based dishes featuring locally harvested produce from the restaurant's own farm! 
Facebook // Instagram // Al Mercat Finca (farm) Instagram
Phone: 00506 2221 0783
Email: Info@almercat.com
 

Cafeoteca

Sample delicious + ethically sourced Costa Rican coffee at Cafeoteca! 23 types of Costa Rican specialty estate coffee are offered, making this the dream destination of any hardcore coffee aficionado. 
Facebook // Web
Phone: 00506 2253 8367
Email: cafeoteca@kalu.co.cr

Photo Via Mantras Veggie Cafe 

Photo Via Mantras Veggie Cafe 

 

Mantras Veggie Cafe

For vegan food, look no further than Mantras Veggie Cafe. A casual setting to grab a salad or wrap before you head out to explore! 

Facebook
 

 

 

Manos en la Masa

Check out this bakery/cafe for brunch! Definitely get the Costa Rican beans and rice. Trust me on that. It's also a great spot to grab lunch on the go, with a variety of sandwiches, tamales, etc. 

Facebook

SHOP

Galeria Namu

If you're looking for fine art, sculpture, and decorative crafts, Galeria Namu is the place to shop! This gallery practices fair trade principles and pays artisans up-front rather than using a consignment model. 

Web // Facebook 

 

Chieton Moren

Chieton Moren is a local art and handicrafts shop + museum! The shop holds goods sourced from 73 individual artists and artisans from various regions around Costa Rica. Admission to the accompanying museum is free. 


Web


Me Extrana

Me Extrana keeps offcast and secondhand American clothes from entering the landfill by refashioning garments and reselling them in San Jose. Expect to find unique clothing with a bohemian flair. 

Web

 


Boutique Kiosco

Another great source for locally made clothing and crafts, Boutique Kiosco has a bit more of a moden vibe. Expect to find super-wearable jewelry and garments, plus practical gifts to bring back home. 

Facebook

 


Tienda Eñe

Tienda eÑe offers a wide range of Costa Rican design including shoes,  leather goods, clothing, bags, jewelry, and artwork. The shop has been running for over 10 years, and boasts a community of 60 artists and makers. 

Facebook

 

EXPERIENCE 

Free Tour San Jose

This walking tour through San Jose will introduce you to local landmarks as well as the hidden gems most tourists won't find. About 2.5 hours long, You'll be sure to learn lots about the local culture and history! 

Facebook 

 

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Carpe Chepe

Experience a night out on the town like a local with Carpe Chepe! Hop on the bus (painted by a local artist) and enjoy a pub crawl featuring tucked-away local establishments. San Jose is home to a burgeoning craft beer industry, and the folks at Carpe Chepe will give you all the details on where to find the best brews! 

Facebook // Web 
Email: info@carpechepe.com

ChepeCletas

Enjoy some active and eco-friendly fun by participating in a bike tour around the city. There are several different routes to choose from which will take you to local hotspots like Central Market, National Monument, Old National Liquor Factory, the Otoya neighborhood, Barrio Amón, Parque España, Parque Morazán and Temple of Music.

Facebook
 

Kasasana

If yoga's your thing, stop by this yoga venue and organic vegan cafe. Take a class, connect with other yogis, or get some great natural health and wellness recommendations from the community of experts. 

Facebook
 

 

STAY 

Hotel Boutique Luz de Luna

This small, locally owned hotel offers comfortable accommodations, wifi, great service, and a delicious traditional breakfast in the morning! Located in a beautiful neighborhood with many amazing eateries, shops, and art displays.

Web
Phone: 00506 2225 4919
Email: reservaciones@luzdelunahotelboutique.com


Hotel1492

Friendly staff, comfortable rooms. The hotel itself is charming and beautifully decorated. Just a short walk away from lots of lovely local spots. I'd stay here again!

Facebook // Web
Phone: 00506 2280 6265
Email: reservaciones@hotel1492.com


Hotel Presidente

If you prefer slightly more upscale accommodations, stay downtown at Hotel Presidente- a stunning, locally owned boutique hotel with all the amenities. 

Web
Email: info@hotel-presidente.com

 


Want some expert guidance on your trip to Costa Rica (or South America in general)? Get in touch with Sumak Travel! Sumak Travel's off-the-beaten-path trips highlight fair trade initiatives, authentic cultural experiences, and eco-friendly travel. 
Facebook // Instagram // Web
Phone: 844-677-7010 (US Toll Free)
Email: enquiries@sumak-travel.org

Shop Ethically on a budget with new shop Love Justly!

This post was generously sponsored by Love Justly. A huge thank you to Love Justly for supporting Life+Style+Justice and also for creating a resource for conscious consumers on tight budgets! 


In several years of blogging about making ethical consumer choices, I've heard many objections to purchasing only ethically sourced clothing. The most common of these objections is that ethical fashion is just too expensive! While it's true that sweatshop-free goods are more costly than their conventional counterparts, there are so many great resources for keeping your wardrobe fresh and ethical without blowing your budget: clothing swaps, thrifting, borrowing, purchasing more expensive items on sale.... and now, shopping through Love Justly

Love Justly partners with your favorite ethical fashion and accessory brands to help move products that may be overstocked or selling too slowly by selling them at discounted prices. Love Justly's site offers clothing, bags, jewelry, and even children's items for up to 50% off! 

It's really a win-win situation for everyone involved: 
Companies that are losing money by sitting on product that won't sell are able to recuperate their costs and clear out old inventory. 

Consumers who might not otherwise be able to work an ethically made maxi dress or pair of shorts into their clothing budget can now find those items for the wallet-friendly cost of just $19.49 or $39.99

All artisans, of course, are paid in full for their work! 

One of my favorite features of Love Justly's website is that you can shop by your size, bypassing the online-shopping frustration of clicking on all the items you like only to find that those items are sold out in your size (this happens to me so often, especially if I'm shopping sale items!). 

I checked out the XS section on Love Justly and found the cute elephant block-printed tunic I'm wearing for $45.00 (originally $90.00). I'd been wanting to add a lightweight, tunic-style top to my wardrobe to use as sun protection (when I can, I prefer wearing a breezy long sleeve shirt to using copious amounts of sunscreen). My new tunic will work perfectly for it's intended purpose and the fabric and quality is great! 

It's important to note that each item on Love Justly's site is available in limited quantities, so items may sell out. However, new items are added every month and some items may re-appear after they've sold out depending on the supplier's inventory. Follow Love Justly on facebook and instagram to stay up to date on the newest products added to the shop! 


All companies featured on Love Justly are required to fit one of the following categories:
1) fair trade
2) ethically sourced (some items may still be ethical, but don't have the official fair trade label)
3) social mission (give back to others through the product)

You can learn more about the companies Love Justly currently partners with on the Love Justly Blog

We're Moving to the Philippines!

Beautiful Manila 

Beautiful Manila 

You've probably heard by now that Andrew and I are moving to the Philippines this month (22 days left until we board a flight, yikes!)! I wanted to take a moment to catch everyone up to speed on the details of this pretty-huge life change and how it will affect this blog + my work over the next year. 

First off, why the Philippines? 

If you followed along with our journey in 2016, you probably watched us launch A Beautiful Refuge, spending a total of 8 weeks (just five for Andrew!) in the Philippines setting up a new social enterprise. 8 weeks is a ridiculously short time to set up shop, but with the help of some amazing friends (looking at you, Lizzie and Nicola!) we are now at the point where everything is in place and all the ABR workers are trained in all the skills required to make products and run the shop. 

To be honest, this is where we thought our involvement would end. A year ago (heck, even three months ago) I would have told you that we wouldn't be moving overseas, that we'd be passing the reigns over to someone else. But life rarely goes according to plan, does it? It turns out that ABR needs a lot more hands-on support in order to run successfully during its first year of operation. Andrew and I have been putting in tons of hours from here in the states, but we can only do so much from across the world. There are local connections that need to be built, sales that need to happen, structure that needs to be enforced. We haven't managed to find a local manager (we don't have a huge salary to offer yet) or any consistent local volunteers (which was our hope). So, Andrew and I are going to offer the needed support as sort-of-full-time volunteers for the next six months or the next year or however long it takes! 

Teaching sewing skills in the ABR workshop (note our sophisticated tarp door-sealing) 

Teaching sewing skills in the ABR workshop (note our sophisticated tarp door-sealing) 

Andrew in the makeshift darkroom he researched and set up for ABR 

Andrew in the makeshift darkroom he researched and set up for ABR 

Neither Andrew or I take a salary or stipend of any kind from the work we do for A Beautiful Refuge, nor are we comfortable "raising support" to live off of (I'll reserve my rant on that subject for another day), so we'll still need to make a living while living in the Philippines. Thankfully, our consulting+digital marketing business is pretty location independent! I've been working full-time with Grow the Good Collaborative since 2014, and Andrew's been working part-time with me for the past year (he'll move to full-time as well once we move). 

We work mostly with anti-human trafficking organizations (providing help with survivor employment initiatives, protests and campaigns, copy writing and strategy) and cause-based businesses (mostly content creation, but also assisting with product development, digital marketing and social media, and doing a bit of project management). 

I'm so thankful for the freedom that my business gives us. It makes all the months of struggle worth it (for those that haven't heard this part of my story, I quit my final full-time non profit job very suddenly after discovering some internal corruption and just dove cold-turkey into running my own business with NO client list, NO business plan, NO previous planning at all. I made it work, but do not exactly recommend). 

Keeping up with clients in the US while working with ABR in April 

Keeping up with clients in the US while working with ABR in April 

Working from anywhere with my "pocket wifi" device (that little black box) 

Working from anywhere with my "pocket wifi" device (that little black box) 

As far as our daily life, not much will really change. We'll work, volunteer, repeat. We'll probably travel a bit (though I've spent a collective 8 months of my life so far in the Philippines, I've never once taken the time to explore all of the beautiful places around the country that I've admired. That changes this year!). I'm looking forward to connecting with some awesome social enterprise incubators and co-working spaces in Manila, as well as working with Fashion Revolution Philippines as the Events and Fundraising Coordinator. Andrew is excited to (hopefully) have a bit more time to work on the book he's writing and some other side projects he's got up his sleeve. 

We'll be living in the tiniest space we've lived in yet, which both of us are completely thrilled about. It's a bit ironic.... we're moving to a city where the cost of living is low enough that we could move into a pretty big place on the same budget that we've maintained here in the states, but neither of us have the desire to have any more space than we actually need. We've been saying for years that our apartment in MN is way too big/more than we need, and Andrew's been drawing up carpentry plans for tiny houses for ages... this will be our chance to see how we do living VERY minimally in a home that's the size of a closet in a Texas McMansion. ; ) Andrew and I are hoping to vlog a bit about this experience! 

A jet-lagged photo from our April trip to set up A Beautiful Refuge 

A jet-lagged photo from our April trip to set up A Beautiful Refuge 

My blog will probably change a bit over the next year- expect a bit less fashion-related content and a bit more content related to ethical travel, minimalist living, and social justice issues. I'm hoping to put out several resource packs/ebooks/videos over the next year focused on various aspects of conscious consumerism, as well (shoot me an email if you have suggestions on what I should tackle first). 

Several of you have sweetly asked on social media or through emails if there is a way to support Andrew and I financially as we make this life change. We're so thankful for the generosity, but we really have everything that we need. If you'd like to support the work of A Beautiful Refuge, you can donate to our startup fund here (we're currently saving up to buy a printer that we need, as well as some much needed packaging and marketing materials). 

Thank you all for your well-wishes and excitement! 

Gluten Free Matcha Christmas Shortbread

This post is sponsored by Numi Tea. I love Numi so much that we have an ongoing partnership- you'll see a clever tea-related post here on Life+Style+Justice each month! Hope you enjoy this fun recipe! 

In yesterday's post, I talked a bit about creating new recipes for Holiday goodies that use ethically sourced ingredients rather than ones with questionable ethics. I like to take that idea one step further by also removing super unhealthy or artificial ingredients whenever I can, as well. If your childhood was anything like mine, I'm sure you grew up consuming a LOT of food coloring and dyes around the holiday season (who remembers those bright-green cornflake wreaths?). Festive colors are fun, but artificial food coloring isn't the easiest thing for our bodies to process. Thankfully, nature has provided us with all the vibrant color we could ever need in the form of plants and herbs.  

This year's best holiday baking experiment has been the vivid green Christmas tree cookie stacks that I whipped up using responsibly sourced matcha tea powder from Numi Organic Tea. 

I modified this simple almond flour shortbread recipe to keep the cookies gluten-free. 

You'll need:
2 cups almond flour
6 tablespoons softened butter (or vegan shortening)
6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons Numi Tea Matcha Powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make about 5 cookie "tree" stacks (depending on the exact size of your cookie cutters). 

Mix all ingredients together (I did this by hand, but you can use a mixer- just be sure to not over-mix!). Roll out dough between two pieces of parchment paper and chill in the refrigerator for several hours. 

Use star-shaped cookie cutters in several different sizes to cut out your dough. I used 4 large stars, 4 medium stars, and 4 small stars for each "tree". 

Bake at 350 degrees for 4-6 minutes (check after 4- almond flour cooks quickly and can burn within a few seconds, especially if you have an old oven like mine that runs a little hot). 

Allow shapes to cool. Stack on a plate and dust with powdered sugar! 

A Conscious Consumer Holiday Survival Guide

A few days ago I asked my ethically-minded instagram community what the most difficult elements of the holidays were for them to cope with. The following tips and resources are in response to some of the most common issues that came up in the ensuing conversation, and that I've received via email and facebook message this month. 

FOOD:

Perhaps even more difficult to source ethically than presents, food during the holiday season can pose a problem for conscious consumers. For most of us, our normal eating habits are altered around the holidays, which might put us in situations where our ethics are compromised when we're asked to make/bring a certain dish to a holiday gathering or are gifted food items that might not align with our values. A few simple tips related to food: 

  1. Buy holiday sweets like Chocolate coins and advent calendars from Divine and truffles from Alter Eco.
  2. Get your hot cocoa and tea from a fair trade source like Divine or Numi. Make your own vegan marshmallows
  3. Stock up on Fair trade baking supplies (sugar, vanilla, baking chocolate, etc) from FrontierDivine, and Wholesome!.
  4. If your family's traditional snacks require the use of food products with questionable ethics (like M&Ms or cheap imported fruits), introduce new recipes that you can create with more fair trade or local ingredients. There are thousands of delicious treats out there, we don't need to be tied to making the same thing year after year! 

At the end of the day, my advice is to purchase and cook/bake with ethically sourced food whenever you personally can, and to gently and joyfully explain why to your family and friends. For food that you're given or offered, or that other family members cook- eat, and be grateful. Acknowledge that everyone is at a different place in their journey and that you can't change your entire family unit overnight. 

GIFTS FOR KIDS: 

Many conscious parents struggle with the holidays because they don't feel as though their family respects their wishes to keep kid-gifts to a minimum. Not having kids myself, I don't have a ton of wisdom in this area, but I have gathered a few tips from smart parents in my life: 

  1. Use the "Something you want, Something you need, Something to wear, Something to read" strategy. Implement this formula for the gifts that you purchase for your kids, and explain to family members that you'd like them to do the same. Sure, the kids will probably still get more gifts than they need, but at least 3/4 of them will be practical/needed items rather than a plethora of light-up toys. 
  2. Donate/Invest: One of my family members asks extended family members to purchase smaller/simpler gifts for her kids, and to gift money toward their education funds in lieu of more excessive gifting. You could also have family members donate to a cause in your child's name and recruit them to help you teach your kids about giving vs. receiving. 

GIFT LIST WOES: 

Here's another holiday bummer:  what if you provide your family with a list of needed/wanted items (all fair trade and ethical, of course), but they end up purchasing a similar, non-ethically made product instead? This especially applies to older members of the extended family who might not be comfortable with shopping online. 

  1. Be strategic about which family members you share what with. If you know for certain that a specific family member won't purchase an item ethically, don't send that item to them on your with list- give them some easier options to choose from. 
  2. Ask for a donation to be made in your name to an organization you care about. If you think your family members will prefer something a bit more tangible, many organizations have lovely gift guides where you can donate money toward a goal/object: a sheep for a refugee family, a month of therapy for a sex trafficking survivor. Check out: 
    Heshima Kenya
    Preemptive Love Coalition
    International Justice Mission
    Safe Refuge
  3. Ask for something special to be made for you in lieu of a gift from a big box store. Maybe your great-grandma knits: ask her for a scarf in your favorite color. Maybe your mom makes the BEST jam or hot fudge sauce: ask for a supply to be wrapped up under the tree. Chances are, your family members will be touched that you appreciate their hobbies and talents and happy to oblige! 
  4. Make things easy: ask for a gift card from Fair+Simple that you'll be able to redeem for any number of beautiful and ethically made goods. To make it even easier, here is a code for 10% off all F+S cards that you can use TODAY: hannah10 

ETHICAL GIVING's COST: 

An understandable roadblock that conscious consumers face when trying to purchase only-ethical presents for family is cost. Fairly made gifts are often much more expensive than conventional products. However, even shoppers with the smallest of budgets can manage to shop ethically as long as they embrace the idea that they need not only gift brand-new ethically made items! Instead of feeling the pressure to buy new: 

  1. Regift something. 
  2. Thrift something. 
  3. Make something. 
  4. Give an experience. 

GIFT WRAPPING AND DECOR: 

Decorating for the holidays can be fun, but what about the environmental impact of all those plastic decorations and that foil-coated gift wrap? Here are a few helpful eco-guides to help you navigate this part of the holidays: 

  1. Elizabeth at The Note Passer recently published a wonderful and informative article on zero waste (or less waste!) holiday decor.
  2. Read Francesca's thoughts on eco-friendly gift wrapping on her blog Ethical Unicorn. 

BEING AROUND PEOPLE WHO DON'T SHARE YOUR VALUES: 

This one is SO tough. Most of us will spend Christmas around at least a few people who REALLY don't share our values (and, for those of us in the US, tensions might be running especially high due to the polarizing nature of November's election). 

One reader emailed me to say that she'd recently watched the True Cost Documentary and drastically changed her own shopping habits, and consequently was dreading the holidays as she'd have to watch her loved ones engage in rampant, mindless consumerism. 

My best advice: 

  1. Stand firm. Be bold but gentle when talking about your own personal choices and why you've made them. 
  2. Remember that everyone is on their own journey. Chances are, you probably haven't had the same ethical guidelines that you have today throughout your entire life. Think back to a year or three years or ten years ago when you were still living/consuming in a conventional way, and refrain from passing judgement. 
  3. You don't have to pretend to be excited about stuff that bothers you. If someone gets you unethically made slippers, thank them and then donate them to a women's shelter if you don't want them in your home. Make an effort the next year to be more firm about what you are and are not okay with receiving. 
  4. If all else fails, there's always fair trade booze.  

MODERATION + SELF CARE: 

The holiday season is a marvelous time to practice contentment and moderation. You'll avoid getting caught up in the marketing/buying frenzy and stay much more calm and grounded if you plan for a slower Christmas filled with good memories, rest, and non-wasteful activities. My best tips? 

  1. Don't overeat, and take time to exercise. I don't believe in completely avoiding indulgent holiday food and drink (I love my eggnog and rum far too much). However, over-indulging is something that I try to avoid: I don't want to spend a month of my year feeling sluggish and sickly. I also try to work out semi-regularly to keep myself feeling well and to alleviate stress. 
  2. Plan meaningful activities and say "no" to things you don't want to spend time on. I'd much rather spend an afternoon baking cookies with my siblings at home than spend a bunch of money shopping at the mall over the weekend... I also say "no" to some family events at this time of year- both Andrew and I have large families and we simply can't make it to every event and gathering. Thankfully we have lovely, supportive families that don't mind.
  3. Don't indulge in your people-pleasing tendencies. If you can't afford the gift that someone wants, don't screw up your budget to buy it. Don't over-extend yourself to be the "hostess with the mostest". Don't buy decorations and stuff for your home that you don't need just to impress relatives over the holidays. Simply give the ones you love the gift of yourself- present, joyful, and happy. 

Urbana Sacs Holiday

This Post is Sponsored by Urbana Sacs, a long-time partner of Life+Style+Justice (see our previous posts together here and here)! 

Some of my most vivid Christmas morning memories from my childhood involve present-opening time. The excitement, the laughs, the hugs.... and also the big black trash bag that would make an appearance every year to contain the plastic bows, toy packaging, and wrapping paper that were left after all the gifts had been revealed. 

As an adult, I've worked to reduce the amount of waste I create when I give presents. I use cotton ribbon or twine instead of plastic bows and ribbon, and wrap in recyclable, biodegradable, and reusable materials like brown paper grocery bags and cloth scraps. This year, I'm partnering with Urbana Sacs to show you a few ways to use Urbana Sacs' "washable paper" containers as gift "wrapping". 

I've used my medium white creative sacs (made from recycled fibers and wood pulp) three different ways as gift packaging this year so far: 

1. As a gift bag

So easy! Just unroll the sac all the way, crease on each side so that it folds similarly to a paper lunch sack, fold over the top, and secure with a ribbon. There are three different sizes of Urbana Creative Sacs, so you can pick up a variety for gifts of all shapes and sizes. 

2. As a Baked Goods Receptacle 

Who needs a cellophane wrapped styrofoam plate to deliver Christmas Cookies? Nestle them in an @urbanasacs and wrap a reusable napkin around them and you're set! Bonus points if you use a cute (new) Christmas-themed flour sack towel that can be re-used in the recipient's kitchen! 

3. As a Gift Basket 

I love the look of using Urbana Sacs in place of the more traditional woven wooden or wicker basket. It's a bit more modern! I filled mine with some fair trade goodies for a friend- next I think I'll put together a DIY spa basket filled with homemade bath and body products, or a movie night basket stuffed with homemade snacks + a fun DVD (used, of course!). 

Urbana Sacs is offering 25% off all orders using code INTHESAC - try them out and let me know how you use Urbana Sacs creatively for the Holidays or just in your own home!