Conscious Life & Style https://www.consciouslifeandstyle.com Mindful Media for Thoughtful Living Wed, 29 Dec 2021 12:07:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.8.2 https://www.consciouslifeandstyle.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/cropped-cropped-cropped-Conscious-Life-Style-Favicon-1-32x32.webp Conscious Life & Style https://www.consciouslifeandstyle.com 32 32 Plant-Based Leather Alternatives Made from Fruit Waste https://www.consciouslifeandstyle.com/plant-based-leather-alternatives-fruit-waste/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=plant-based-leather-alternatives-fruit-waste https://www.consciouslifeandstyle.com/plant-based-leather-alternatives-fruit-waste/#respond Tue, 20 Apr 2021 19:19:43 +0000 https://www.consciouslifeandstyle.com/?p=13578 Learn more about what's wrong with most vegan leathers and two exciting plant-based leather alternatives apple leather and mango leather.

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There have been a number of innovative plant-based leather alternatives coming to the market in the past few years — including some leather-like materials made out of food waste!

This article will dive into a couple of exciting plant-based leather materials made from fruit waste, and will also discuss the problems with most vegan leathers on the market today.

This post was proudly made in partnership with Allégorie. The research for this post was done independently and all opinions are my own.

The Problem With Vegan Leathers

While vegan leather may sometimes be promoted as a sustainable alternative to animal leather products, the reality is more complicated. That is because today, the majority of vegan leather is made out of non-biodegradable, synthetic materials sourced from fossil fuels. More specifically, most vegan leather is actually polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). 

Not only do these materials increase demand for petroleum, but PVC contains dangerous chemical additives that can pose direct health risks as well.  

The good news is that there are far better vegan leather alternatives that don’t have to come at the cost of your health or the planet.

The Agricultural Waste Problem

Before we dive into some of these more sustainable vegan leather alternatives, let’s talk about another huge problem: food waste.

About one third of all food produced in the world is wasted — that’s about 1.3 billion tonnes wasted every single year. Estimates put that number even higher in the United States The NRDC found that up to 40% of food in the U.S. is wasted. 

Considering that agriculture is responsible for 11% of total global greenhouse gas emissions and that many regions of the world use up to 70% of their freshwater for agriculture, that’s a massive problem. 

One Solution? Creating Vegan Leathers With Food Waste!

Of course, there are many solutions to addressing our food waste crisis and we need ways to ensure that edible food gets in the hands of those who need it most.

That said, there are also forms of agricultural and food waste that aren’t edible, such as apple peels or pineapple leaves. These forms of waste can still be used though when they are transformed into useful products — like vegan leathers!

Apple Leather

Apple leather is made from discarded apple skins leftover by the fruit juice and compote industry. In fact, the juice industry was responsible for about 1.4 million tons of apple peel waste in 2016 alone. (This estimate is based on juice consumption and usage ratio in juice factories.)

What do we do with all of these leftover apple peels? Turns out that these discarded peels — when combined with other bio content, recycled materials, and water-based PU* — can create a durable material with a texture similar to other vegan leathers.

While it may be difficult to imagine what apple peels might look like on a bag, the result is actually quite stunning! Take a look at Allégorie’s apple leather bags if you don’t believe me!

Top Picks: Black Gala Backpack and Rose Gala Camera Bag

All Apple Leather Accessories

Mango Leather

Another fruit with a waste problem? Mangos. This tropical fruit is very sensitive — it has to be hand-harvested and must be transported carefully, as mangos can get soft quite quickly. The actual percentage of mangos wasted varies by region, but it’s reported that over 60% of mangos in Kenya go to waste before they even hit the grocery store. And in Senegal, experts estimate that about 50-70% of mangoes get wasted.

Once mangos make it into the grocery store, they must make it through another test: getting into a shopper’s grocery cart! While these mangos do face better odds, about 12% of fruit in the produce aisle does not get sold. The USDA found in 2005-2006 that 8-22% of mangos do not get sold by grocery stores.

Allégorie makes use of these would-be wasted mangos, though, to create their chic mango bags! The brand partners with supermarkets to collect discarded mangos, which are then blended and combined with a water-based PU* to create a faux leather material.

Top Pick: Brown Mango Bi-Fold Cardholder

All Mango Leather Accessories

*Allégorie’s water-based PU technology uses water instead of organic solvents and does not contain harmful chemicals such as DMF and DOP. There is no pollution during the production process, zero emissions of hazardous chemicals, and other procedures in place to ensure environmental protection.

While using some non-renewably sourced materials is not ideal, all of the current plant-based vegan leathers on the market today are mixed with some percentage of synthetic materials for durability and strength. We hope to see further innovations and improvements in this space that will make it possible to create 100% bio-based accessories soon! But in the meantime, this is an amazing improvement!

About Allégorie

Beyond using innovative vegan leather alternatives like the two materials discussed above, Allégorie follows a number of other conscious practices in their business. Here are a few highlights about the eco-friendly vegan bag brand:

  • Allégorie is women-owned and managed
  • The brand works with material suppliers that follow high environmental standards, such as zero toxic chemical emissions, green energy use, and water-efficient practices (like water recycling).
  • The company also follows strict internal due diligence protocols for both quality and ethics to ensure fair compensation, benefits, good working conditions, and reasonable working hours.
  • The linings of the bags are made from recycled fibers and plant-based polyester made from non-edible plants and agricultural waste such as sugarcane.
  • The final production of Allégorie’s bags takes place in New York City, so the brand’s team can visit and talk to the workers in this facility personally. Workers are paid fairly — i.e. they earn above the minimum wage with the additional compensation based on their expertise and experience
  • Every piece in Allégorie’s collection is durable and created with timeless designs, ensuring longevity

P.S. If you find something you love on Allégorie’s site, you can use code CONSCIOUS10 for 10% off your purchase!

Check Out Allégorie

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Is Cork Eco-Friendly? Here’s What Makes This Vegan Leather So Green https://www.consciouslifeandstyle.com/cork-eco-friendly/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cork-eco-friendly https://www.consciouslifeandstyle.com/cork-eco-friendly/#respond Fri, 06 Nov 2020 22:54:04 +0000 https://consciouslifeandstyle.com/?p=10469 What makes cork eco-friendly? From renewability to carbon sequestration, this guide breaks down 5 reasons cork is a green material.

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Cork has been used for everything from yoga mats to car interiors as brands in a range of industries look to create more environmentally-responsible products, but is cork eco-friendly?

The good news is yes, cork is among the most earth-friendly materials being used today! 

What makes cork eco-conscious exactly though?

I’m working with JORD to bring you a breakdown of 5 reasons that cork is an eco-friendly material…

1. Renewable and Regenerative

Cork is harvested by cork strippers who remove the bark of cork oak trees — meaning no trees are cut down to harvest cork. This cork stripping process is done carefully by skilled workers (not machines) to ensure that the tree does not get harmed in any way. 

The cork oak tree renews quickly — once a cork oak tree reaches 25 years, the bark can be harvested about every 9-12 years! And with cork oaks living to about 200 years, each tree can be harvested numerous times. [1]

Plus, this harvesting can actually play a beneficial role in our environment as well.

After the cork is harvested from the bark of cork oak trees, the tree regenerates more bark. The tree needs to absorb CO2 for this bark regeneration process and thus sequesters more CO2 from the atmosphere than it would if left unharvested. According to the Cork Forest Conservation Alliance, a harvested cork oak tree absorbs up to 5 times more CO2 than an unharvested cork tree. [2]

This is a beautiful illustration of the Indigenous lessons taught in Braiding Sweetgrass (which is a must-read, by the way!) of the essential role humans can play in reciprocity with nature and regeneration of the earth.

2. Supports Biodiversity

Forests with cork oaks have more biodiversity than many other types of forests — they can be home to nearly 135 plant species per square kilometer and provide a habitat for a variety of animals, including some endangered species like the Iberian lynx and Barbary deer! [1]

But, as the cork industry faced reduced demand for wine corks (amidst the rise of screw-off caps and plastic wine stoppers), the value of these cork oak forests declined as well. And, as the value of forests decreases, the risk of exploitation and clearcutting the land for other purposes increases.

Providing a market for cork products, though, increases the incentive to preserve these cork oak trees and the forests they live in — all while also protecting thousands of well-paying green jobs in rural areas. [3]

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3. Durable

A key attribute that must be taken into consideration when evaluating the eco-friendliness of a material is its durability. Can this material be used to make products that actually last the test of time? Is the material tough enough to withstand years of wear and tear? Would you be able to adopt the practice of fewer, better things with products made of this material?

Cork, while lightweight, is in fact an ultra-durable material, which just so happens to also be stain and weather-resistant!

In an analysis of the properties of cork, BioResources science journal concluded that cork is:

  • “Not very permeable to fluids” (i.e. waterproof)
  • Has a low thermal coefficient (i.e. can withstand very high temperatures)
  • “Exhibits elasticity and deformation without fracturing under compression” (i.e. will not break or crack when pressure is applied)
  • “And has considerable durability” (pretty self-explanatory! [4]

4. Plant-Based Leather Alternative 

Natural doesn’t always mean cruelty-free and vegan doesn’t always mean natural, but the term ‘plant-based’ can be used to refer to materials that are both vegan and natural. 

Although they may be (deceptively) marketed as “eco-friendly”, most mass-market vegan products are actually just made entirely from plastic materials manufactured from crude oil.

Vegan leather alternatives are commonly made from polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is known to be the most toxic and environmentally damaging form of plastic. In fact, vinyl chloride, the chemical used to make PVC, is a known carcinogen according to the National Cancer Institute and WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. [5, 6] 

Cork, though, can offer a viable natural leather alternative to these synthetic vegan leathers!

5. Reusable, Recyclable, and Biodegradable 

Reusable: Cork is a versatile material used for anything from insulation to crafts to flooring! 

Recyclable: Cork is recyclable! Check out Earth911 for a guide to recycling cork.

Biodegradable: Because cork is a natural material, it can biodegrade. Here are some tips for how to compost cork.

What is Suberhide™?

Suberhide™ is JORD’s trademarked “cork-infused vegan leather”. The word comes from a combination of hide (cork bark) and suberin, which is a waxy substance found in the cell structure of the cork that gives cork its resilience.

The process of converting raw cork into JORD’s signature Suberhide™ retains the most amount of suberin possible, making it an incredibly durable material, meant to last a lifetime.

JORD sources their cork from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified forests in Portugal, to ensure responsible sourcing.

As a material, Suberhide™ is soft and smooth. Though it is created from cork, it is nothing like the cork in wine stoppers; it’s actually a supple material available in several finishes. 

Check out this page for more on the process behind JORD’s Suberhide™ material — it’s pretty fascinating!

Where to Find Cork Bags

If you’re looking for an investment handbag for yourself — or perhaps a gift for a loved one — JORD’s Suberhide™ cork handbag collection has some really fab choices. Here are a few of my favorite cork bags from JORD!

Check Out JORD’s Full Collection of Cork Handbags

(And you can use the code CONSCIOUSLIFEANDSTYLE20 for 20% off if you find something you love or want to gift!)

Sources:

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What it Takes to Make Ethical & Eco-Friendly Jewelry https://www.consciouslifeandstyle.com/what-is-eco-friendly-ethical-jewelry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-is-eco-friendly-ethical-jewelry https://www.consciouslifeandstyle.com/what-is-eco-friendly-ethical-jewelry/#respond Thu, 22 Oct 2020 21:23:03 +0000 https://consciouslifeandstyle.com/?p=10222 What are the environmental impacts of jewelry production and what is eco-friendly jewelry? Here's what you need to know...

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When you dive behind the alluring sparkle and dazzle of the conventional jewelry industry, you’re met with some harsh realities, from ecological destruction to human rights abuses.

But there’s a way to do better — and I’ve partnered up with consciously-made jewelry brand, Laura Elizabeth, to demonstrate how.

Allison Ring

First, let’s talk about why we need a better jewelry industry…

The Environmental Impact of Jewelry Production

Most of the jewelry seen shining on display at jewelers and department stores have a dirty origin. Much of the world’s gold comes from open-pit mines where large areas of native vegetation are cleared out and massive amounts of earth are scoured away and processed for trace elements. [1] 

As Earthworks puts it, “gold mining is one of the most destructive industries in the world.” It displaces communities, destroys environments, and contaminates drinking water with hazardous substances like mercury and cyanide. [2] And the energy use, degradation, and pollution will only increase as gold gets scarcer and more difficult to obtain, requiring increasingly more resources for fewer traces of gold.

Even back 20 years ago in 2000, the EPA found that mining had contaminated 40% of the watersheds in the West of the United States. [3]

How does this translate into the impact of the jewelry industry? The jewelry industry is the largest customer of gold, demanding about 50% of the world’s gold. [4]. 

And to help connect the dots between mining and the jewelry we wear, Earthworks calculated that there are 20 tons of mine waste produced for the average gold ring. [5]

The mining industry is just as exploitative of its workers as it is of the environment. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the mining and quarrying sector is a major driver of labor exploitation, responsible for 4% of forced labor globally. [6] The ILO also reports that there are tens of thousands of children working in gold mining today around the world, making the industry a major driver for child labor as well.  [7]

So, the problems are clear — now, how can the industry do better? Conscious jewelry brands like Laura Elizabeth have been paving the way for years, demonstrating how to produce stunning jewelry in a more environmentally and socially responsible manner.

Lindsey Bark Cuff
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What is Eco-Friendly Jewelry? And What is Ethical Jewelry? 

In order to find out if a brand is in fact creating ethical and eco-friendly jewelry, here’s what to look for:

1. Recycled or Vintage Metals

With the amount of gold and other metals in circulation today and the infinite recyclability of these metals, there is little reason to not choose recycled. Especially because recycled gold has the same quality as newly mined gold yet does 99% less damage to the environment, based on an analysis by DELL of various factors, like global warming, acidification, eutrophication, ecotoxicity, and carcinogens. [8]

Laura Elizabeth is among the companies choosing the conscious (and logical!) choice, using recycled gold and other metals for their uniquely designed and sculptural pieces.

The metal used in the brand’s pieces is sourced from local recycling plants in Los Angeles (with the exception of the chains, wires, and clasps, which are from a jewelry making company called Rio Grande that uses 100% solar-powered energy for their facility and follows ethical sourcing practices). 

2. Non-Toxic Washes and Polish

Allison Ring

Another dirty secret of the jewelry industry is that many manufacturers use chemicals like cyanide to clean and polish their jewelry, which has even led to some jewelry workers getting cyanide poisoning. [9] Laura Elizabeth, on the other hand, avoids using acids or hazardous chemicals and uses Seventh Generation’s household cleaning products instead. 

3. Prioritize Ethical Production

Similar to the garment industry, many conventional jewelry workshops and factories do not follow fair production practices and just as we ask #WhoMadeMyClothes, we also must dive deeper and ask #WhoMadeMyJewelry. 

Laura Elizabeth’s jewelry is made in a small, woman-owned studio in Los Angeles, that Laura has been partnering with for 10 years.

Silva, who owns the studio, ensures fair practices like reasonable working hours (7 hours a day, 5 days per week), proper ventilation, and fair wages, including paying employees 2 weeks additional pay when Los Angeles was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

4. Clean (i.e. Non-Polluting) Production

If you’ve seen the documentary RiverBlue, you’re aware of the problems of improper disposal in the textile industry and the pollution this creates. Again, the jewelry industry is similar. Many manufacturers will dump the plaster used in the production process in the water and sewage system. 

The plaster to create Laura Elizabeth’s jewelry though is properly disposed of through a special sewer to ensure that it will not affect any ecosystem.

Aloha Palm Tree Necklace

5. Eco-Minded Packaging

We can’t forget the last stage of the process: the packaging! Typically, packaging materials are made using virgin plastic and/or virgin paper. The more environmentally sound choice is to look for compostable and/or recyclable packaging. 

Laura Elizabeth currently uses recycled paper and packaging and will soon by using compostable boxes with biodegradable algae ink. 

And that covers many of the elements of what eco-friendly and ethical jewelry is all about! 

Laura Elizabeth clearly has these areas covered — the woman-owned and-operated brand creates exceptional jewelry that’s handcrafted with respect to the planet and to the people making and wearing the pieces. 

In addition to being earth-minded in their production of the jewelry, many of Laura Elizabeth’s pieces — like her cuffs — were designed by taking inspiration from nature’s elements!

To check Laura Elizabeth’s entire collection of timeless jewelry, visit their website LauraElizabethJewelry.com. You’ll find that Laura’s pieces are stunning by themselves or can easily be mixed, matched, and layered.

Lindsey Bark Cuff

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Sources:

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What is Plant-Based Clothing? Plus, 3 Eco-Friendly Vegan Fabrics to Know https://www.consciouslifeandstyle.com/plant-based-clothing-valani/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=plant-based-clothing-valani https://www.consciouslifeandstyle.com/plant-based-clothing-valani/#respond Wed, 09 Sep 2020 13:43:20 +0000 https://consciouslifeandstyle.com/?p=9513 You're familiar with plant-based food, but what about plant-based clothing? Learn all about plant-based fashion in this article.

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We’re likely familiar with the concept and importance of a plant-based diet, but how about a plant-based closet — what is plant-based clothing, why does it matter, and where can we find it? 

Let’s start with the basics…

[P.S. This post is proudly sponsored by Valani, an eco-fashion label with feminine clothing responsibly crafted from earth-minded vegan fibers. As always, all brands featured on Conscious Life & Style must meet very high standards for sustainability and opinions are completely my own!]

What is Plant-Based Clothing?

As it sounds, plant-based clothing is clothing — like the garments from Valani — are made from materials derived from plants, like eucalyptus trees, cork trees, the hemp plant, or even from the byproducts of fruits.

All plant-based clothing is vegan, but not all vegan clothing is plant-based. What differentiates plant-based fashion from vegan fashion is that the former implies that the materials used are natural. 

Why “Vegan” Doesn’t Automatically Mean Eco-Friendly

While many — especially those just getting started with conscious lifestyle changes — may assume that vegan equals green, the reality is that while vegan fashion can be mindfully produced, it can also be made from fossil fuels.

Vegan fashion can mean made from animal-free synthetics, like polyester for example, which is formed from a combination of coal, petroleum from crude oil, air, and water, [1] or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is derived from petroleum and salt. Not exactly earth-minded fibers!

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Examples of Eco-Friendly Plant-Based Clothing Fabrics

In addition to recycled fabrics, responsibly-sourced plant-based fibers are a wonderful way to implement vegan fashion into your life in a conscious way. Not all fabrics are created equal, though. So, here are a few of the best ones to note.

1. Hemp

Durable yet soft, temperature regulating yet breathable — hemp is one incredible fiber. Add to that the fact that the hemp plant is fast-growing and resists pests, requires little water to grow, and can even heal the soil where it’s grown by extracting pollutants and restoring vital nutrients. 

To get an idea of just how efficient growing hemp is, consider this: on the same amount of land, hemp can produce 2.5 times more fiber than cotton and 6 times more fiber than flax (the plant that linen comes from)! [2]

Now, let’s talk about aesthetics. While hemp has had the perception of being frumpy in the past, Valani is shedding this granola image with their light and flowy Hemp/Tencel clothing designed with flirty feminine cuts — from puffed sleeve crop tops to ruffled frocks.

2. Banana Fabric

While it may sound cutting-edge to create fabric from a banana plant, it was actually back in the 13th century when banana fiber cloth was first introduced in Japan!  [3] The fabric faded away as cotton and silk became more popular, but this plant-based fabric is making a resurgence thanks to its sustainability and soft, silky feel.

Banana fabric is made from banana stems of the banana plant, which are typically discarded by the banana agriculture industry. So, nothing new needs to be grown or extracted to source the raw materials for this fabric.

Inspired by the naturally delicate and silk-like texture of banana fabric, Valani’s banana fiber clothing is dreamy and elevated, like the brand’s ruffled Sokha Banana Dress and romantic Srey Midi Skirt.

3. Tencel

In a nutshell, Tencel is a cellulose fiber derived from the wood pulp of eucalyptus trees and produced using a closed-loop process. 

While trees are a naturally renewable resource, not all cellulosic fibers are created equal. What sets Tencel apart is that it is sourced from responsibly managed FSC-certified farms (many cellulose fibers, like viscose and rayon, are made from trees harvested from ancient and endangered forests [4]) and the fiber is produced using an ultra-efficient process that recovers and reuses over 99% of the water and solvents used.

Tencel, like banana fabric, is another silky material. Valani uses the naturally hypo-allergenic plant-based fabric to craft elegant, timeless pieces with simple silhouettes that feel sophisticated and sexy.

More on Valani

Valani is a woman-of-color-owned, plant-based fashion brand that thoughtfully considers each detail of production. Valani colors their garments with Oeko-Tex certified low-impact and non-toxic dyes and avoids the use of any heavy metals in their dyeing and finishing process as well. 

Mindful of fashion’s massive textile waste problem, Valani also cuts their patterns efficiently to minimize the amount of fabric leftover. Any remaining fabric is used to create accessories and the scraps are utilized for things like pillow fillings.

And not leaving out any piece of the puzzle, each Valani piece is delivered to you in eco-friendly packaging made from recycled and natural materials like hemp and jute twine, recycled tissue paper and organic cotton labels.

Founder Vanni also has embedded charity into her Valani’s operations — the brand plants one tree for every garment sold and donates 10% of profits to various women’s rights, animal, and environmental nonprofit organizations.

Visit shopvalani.com and follow the brand’s Instagram page, @shopvalani, to learn more about the brand and explore their collection!

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What to Look for When Shopping for Eco-Friendly and Ethical Socks https://www.consciouslifeandstyle.com/eco-friendly-ethical-socks-conscious-step/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=eco-friendly-ethical-socks-conscious-step https://www.consciouslifeandstyle.com/eco-friendly-ethical-socks-conscious-step/#respond Tue, 19 May 2020 01:08:25 +0000 https://consciouslifeandstyle.com/?p=7757 This guide breaks down what to look for when shopping for socks — like sustainable fibers — and some of the relevant issues in the industry.

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It can be easy to overlook the basics when you’re on your sustainable style journey — we tend to focus on clothes, bags, shoes, and maybe jewelry. But it’s easy to either not give something as simple as socks a second thought or to underestimate their impact.

These everyday essentials, though, are not exempt from the issues that pervade the textile and garment industries. 

So let’s go back to the basics and talk about sustainable socks.

I’ve partnered with eco sock company Conscious Step to break down what to look for when shopping for socks and some of the relevant issues in the industry (i.e. why these elements are so important!)

  1. Organic or recycled fibers
  2. Ethically sourced
  3. High quality

Spoiler alert: Conscious Step‘s socks meet all of these criteria! But this post is still essential reading because as conscious citizens and shoppers, it’s more important than ever to educate ourselves as much as possible on exactly what constitutes “sustainable” or what to look for to ensure responsible production so that we can feel confident deciphering the green from the greenwashing and support brands that truly meet our values.

(Cover image: Socks that Prevent Breast Cancer 3-Pack and Socks that Save Dogs 3-Pack)

Conscious Step organic cotton fair trade socks
L: Wearing Socks that Support Rainforests | R: Wearing Socks that Protect Cheetahs

Here are some tips to keep in mind when shopping for socks:

1. Organic or Recycled Fibers

I tend to prioritize natural fibers as much as possible in my wardrobe, and socks are no exception! While some synthetics are usually required for a comfortable stretch in socks, I like to see that the majority of the fabric is composed of natural fibers!

But not just any natural fibers. Conventional cotton, for instance, is natural and renewable, but the process of growing cotton fibers is hard on the environment and on farmers. Growing conventional cotton uses 16% of the world’s insecticides for global food and fiber production and 7% of pesticides while making up just 2.5% of the world’s arable land. The impact on farmers, as you can imagine, is just as severe. Three of the 10 most hazardous insecticides are actually commonly used chemicals to grow conventional cotton and Soil Association estimates that up to 77 million cotton workers suffer from poisoning from pesticides annually.

Organic cotton, on the other hand, is not genetically modified and is not treated with synthetic herbicides, pesticides, or insecticides. Organically-grown cotton is lighter on the environment — compared with conventional cotton, it reduces water pollution by 98%, reduces water and land acidification by 70%, and consumes 91% less blue water (i.e. surface and groundwater).

With Conscious Step‘s socks, you can rest easy as all of the cotton they source for their socks is GOTS organic certified!

Conscious Step organic cotton fair trade cheetah print socks
Dancing around in my Socks that Protect Cheetahs

2. Ethically Made

Simply put, cotton production involves a lot of people — in fact, Fairtrade estimates that 100 million households are directly involved in cotton production. And unfortunately, many of these cotton farmers face significant hardship as cotton prices have gone done while production prices have increased over the years.

Fairtrade works to ease this burden and provide farmers with more opportunities through their Fairtrade minimum price and Fairtrade premiums, which can be used to invest in projects that the community chooses. 

Many large brands aren’t even able to trace where their raw materials are sourced — let alone verify that they’re sustainably or ethically sourced. This is why looking for the Fairtrade seal when it comes to cotton is super important! Brands, like Conscious Step, that work with Fairtrade cotton are able to verify that the farmers growing their cotton 

Again, you can feel confident that your cotton was produced responsibly with Conscious Step, as all of their cotton is Fairtrade certified, in addition to being organic.

Conscious Step organic cotton polka dot socks
Wearing Socks that Protect Oceans

3. High Quality 

Socks are something we’ve become accustomed to purchasing in big packs at cheap prices — they’ve become somewhat of a commodity. And I’ve been guilty of doing this as well in the past. Even once I started my ethical fashion journey, I purchased cheap socks by the 10-pack. Turns out those cheap socks not only didn’t match my values, but they also were terribly uncomfortable and would start to thin out or rip after just a few months.

Conscious Step‘s socks, on the other hand, are super comfy when you put them on (ever had crew-length socks that dug into your skin and left red marks? Yeah, that doesn’t happen with these!!) and stay comfortable all day long (some of their socks feature a cushioned insole and arch support!) These socks also have the right weight and thickness where you can tell they’re sturdy but your feet don’t get overheated. 

Perhaps one of the reasons you’ve hesitated to invest in socks is the fear you’ll lose a sock in the wash. My tip is to use a microfiber catching bag, like the Guppyfriend Bag, which will stop any microfibers and microplastics from ending up in our waterways and keep your socks all in one place, and to air-dry your socks on a collapsible drying rack. 

Conscious step leaf printed and polka dot printed socks
L: Wearing Socks That Protect Rainforests R: Wearing Socks that Protect Oceans

Bonus: Look for other efforts from a brand!

Whenever possible, I try to look for brands that are going a bit above and beyond. What other initiatives or give-back programs do they have? 

Conscious Step has a unique give-back program — each and every sock design is inspired by a cause and $1 from each pair of socks goes to a nonprofit organization associated with that cause! These leaf-printed socks, for example, are “Socks that Protect Rainforests” and the money goes to Conservation International, helping the organization protect 10 trees in the rainforest. Pretty neat, right?!

***

To shop for socks that meet all of these values (+ are super cute), check out Conscious Step here! And be sure to use code ELIZABETH20 for 20% off your order.

Note: This post was made in partnership with Conscious Step — as always I only feature brands I believe in and which strict high standards for responsibility and sustainability! 

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    Accessorize With Purpose: A Look at WorldFinds’ Fair and Fabulous Upcycled Jewelry https://www.consciouslifeandstyle.com/upcycled-fair-trade-jewelry-world-finds/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=upcycled-fair-trade-jewelry-world-finds https://www.consciouslifeandstyle.com/upcycled-fair-trade-jewelry-world-finds/#respond Tue, 05 Nov 2019 07:40:12 +0000 https://consciouslifeandstyle.com/?p=5721 A Conscious Life & Style review of WorldFinds: a fair trade jewelry and accessories brand with beautifully vibrant recycled Kantha pieces!

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    This post was created in partnership with WorldFinds, a fair trade jewelry and accessories brand known for their vibrant, recycled Kantha pieces.

    Fair trade products were my first exposure to the world of conscious living—and it continues to be that seal of approval I frequently look for when shopping for ethical fashion.

    On top of looking for that fair trade standard, I also like to select artisan handmade goods whenever possible—there’s just something undeniably special about owning and wearing a piece that was individually handcrafted with care by an artisan, craftsperson, or maker from another part of the world.

    There’s simply no question that fair trade handmade pieces have a powerful purpose behind them and a deep, beautiful story worth sharing—and WorldFinds‘ striking pieces are the perfect illustration of this beauty and impact.

    The jewelry that WorldFinds is most known for, their Kantha jewelry, is meticulously handcrafted from recycled Kantha textiles by women artisans in India. I’ve actually never seen jewelry quite like this before, and was beyond excited to see what these pieces look like in person!

    Because they are handmade, every single piece is one-of-a-kind, making WorldFinds’ jewelry pieces that you’ll treasure for years to come.

    Who Made My Jewelry?

    This is becoming an increasingly important question to ask from the brands we purchase from as global supply chains become more and more opaque.

    With WorldFinds, you can answer this question with confidence.

    WorldFinds works with over 700 women artisans in India and Bali. These artisans belong to women’s cooperatives, family groups, or members of the World Fair Trade Organization. This guarantees that every artisan crafting WorldFinds’ pieces earns fair wages for their work, has a safe and healthy workplace, and is treated with respect.

    By earning fair, living wages through their work for WorldFinds, these women are able to afford necessities they had never been able to do before: like send their children to school, purchase a water meter, or invest in a two-room flat.

    The impact is clear. By choosing to purchase a fairly-made, artisan-crafted piece from WorldFinds rather than a mass-produced product you don’t know the origins of, you are helping to guarantee sustainable employment for women that enable them to support their families and communities.

    How was it made?

    Another key element of WorldFinds‘ conscious production standards is their dedication to sourcing earth-friendly recycled materials.

    The brand’s Kantha jewelry (which is all of the jewelry you see featured in this post!), are made from recycled Sari and Kantha textiles. These textiles are wrapped around wooden beads that are made from leftover wood scraps that have been sourced from local furniture factories.

    I’m incredibly impressed by the resourcefulness of WorldFinds’ jewelry designs. While some brands using repurposed materials really have that “recycled” look to them, WorldFinds makes circular fashion look so beautiful! 

    WorldFinds Fair Trade Kantha Jewelry
    A closeup of the Kantha Noir Spiral Bracelet

    Let’s talk style!

    If you’ve been following along for a while, you probably know that, while I certainly wear neutrals from time to time, I’m no neutralist. I love a good pop of color! 

    And WorldFinds’ pieces are a simple and stylish way to add in a few rich hues to any look.

    I was thrilled to be able to try out WorldFinds’ more vibrant pieces as well their more subtly accented ones. It was a lot of fun to style this jewelry with different colors and looks—I hope it gives you some ethical #ootd inspiration as well!

    Celebrating Color

    Honoring the vibrancy and artistry of traditional Kantha textiles, WorldFinds‘ bright Kantha pieces are the perfect bold accessories for adding a dose of color to a basic look or for complementing an equally colorful outfit.

    Often in the ethical fashion community, you hear about people sticking to neutrals to make it simple to mix and match and get the most out of garments and accessories. But, I’ve learned that you don’t have to just wear neutrals to get the most out of your pieces!

    When accessories have a variety of colors in them (like the jewelry from WorldFinds), you can easily wear them with many colors or neutrals you already have in your closet.

    I decided to wear my WorldFinds’ pieces with a floral maxi skirt, which brought in similar shades of pink, blue, and off-white.

    I paired this skirt and the jewelry with a white peasant-style blouse (because it was just too perfect of a piece to not wear to a castle photo location!) as well as with a burgundy top (which I’m more likely to wear day-to-day).

    This delicate Kantha Horizontal Bar Necklace is certainly going to be one of my most well-loved pieces of jewelry. It adds just the right touch of unique beauty and vibrancy to nearly any outfit.

    Autumnal Hues

    Though these pieces could easily be worn year-round, the warm yellow and black of WorldFinds’ Kantha Midnight Sun Necklace and Kantha Noir Spiral Bracelet have an undeniable fall feeling! And this necklace and bracelet set pair nicely with fall neutrals like off-white, tan, and gray. 

    My favorite way to wear statement necklaces is with a simple blouse! So, I paired the Kantha necklace with yellow corduroy shorts and a gray blouse for an autumn-inspired look.

    The black and yellow jewelry can also add some color and texture to an all-black look. I matched the same bracelet and necklace set with a black jumpsuit and tan jacket when exploring Strasbourg, France last weekend.

    Another Favorite from WorldFinds

    Beyond their fair trade jewelry, WorldFinds also has gorgeous artisan accessories. This intricately detailed clutch also made from recycled Kantha textiles is definitely one of my favorites! I adore the eye-catching pattern and colorful accents.

    I’m planning to use this piece to carry small essentials within a larger bag for day-to-day and to wear it as a chic clutch for evening outings.

    A closeup of the Suzani Kisslock

    This was just a sampling of the exquisite handcrafted fair trade jewelry and accessories available from WorldFinds! To discover all of the ethical brand’s exceptional, vibrant pieces, head on over to WorldFinds.com.

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      Sustainably Handmade Sandals and Slides: Meet Salt + Umber https://www.consciouslifeandstyle.com/sustainable-sandals-slides-salt-umber/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-sandals-slides-salt-umber https://www.consciouslifeandstyle.com/sustainable-sandals-slides-salt-umber/#respond Sat, 20 Jul 2019 20:49:57 +0000 https://consciouslifeandstyle.com/?p=5168 Meet Salt + Umber, an impressive ethical shoes and accessories brand sourcing sustainably-made small-batch artisan-made goods.

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      ‘Tis the season for sandals and slides!

      When the climate you live in only has about 2 or 3 months fit for wearing summer apparel, that time of year when you can slip on a pair of shoes without socks again is a pretty joyous occasion.

      This year (and for many more years to come, I’m sure!) I’ll be celebrating the warm weather with Salt + Umber‘s gorgeous Darium Beige Sandals and Black Lily Mules gifted to me from Made Trade, the online destination for ethically elevated goods.

      A look behind Salt + Umber

      One of the many innovative and beautiful conscious brands among Made Trade’s curation is Salt + Umber.

      Salt + Umber’s shoes and accessories are thoughtfully handmade in small batches by artisans working in ethical SMETA-approved factories. SMETA, which stands for Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit, is an auditing process that covers multiple areas, including labor, health and safety, environment, and business ethics.

      Through their ethical business model, Salt + Umber is committed to providing economic opportunities for women in India. To expand their impact, the conscious brand also has a micro-loan initiative for the rural Indian women artisans they work with. 

      On top of the fair labor standards Salt + Umber has in place, the brand also works to reduce their environmental impact. Their shoes are made with responsibly-made and recycled materials, such as scrap leather for the woven shoe uppers and vegetable-tanned leather for the insoles. And some of their shoes are even handmade with a near zero-waste design!

      Plus, for their shoe sampling process, Salt + Umber uses computer-generated shoe models to avoid unnecessary waste. So cool, right?!

      Here’s a closer look at the Salt + Umber shoes I tried out:

      Lily Mules in Black

      Fair trade sustainable mules from Made Trade
      Wearing clothes borrowed from my mom, an old hat, and Salt + Umber Lily Mules in Black from Made Trade

      The Style: I’ve never owned a pair of mules, but I gotta say after wearing these beauties, I’m sold on mules for life. They’re comfy, easy-to-wear, but look super chic. 

      At first, I struggled to style the mules since I hadn’t ever worn a shoe like this before, but I ended up loving them with loose-fitting linen pants (which I borrowed from my mom!). I also like wearing the mules with crop-length fitted pants for a more casual look.

      The Sizing: These mules run true to size and the recommendation is to size up if you’re between sizes. I usually wear a 7 ½ or 8 and the 8 in these mules fit perfectly.

      The Ethics: These Salt + Umber Lily Mules were handmade by artisans in India and have a vegetable-tanned leather insole and a leather upper crafted from scrap leather pieces.

      Darium Sandals in Beige

      Sustainable sandals from Salt + Umber on Made Trade

      The Style: You’d be hard-pressed to find a more summer-y sandal than these beige Darium Sandals from Salt + Umber! I’m already dreaming up all the floral and bright outfits I can pair with these shoes.

      The Sizing: Similar to the mules, these sandals run true to size. I usually wear a 7 ½ or 8, and the 8 in these fit well.

      The Ethics: The Darium Sandals in beige were made with a vegetable-tanned leather insole and have a handwoven raffia upper. The sustainably-made sandals were handcrafted by artisans in India working in ethical factories. 

      Shop Salt + Umber’s sustainable sandals & slides on Made Trade

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        You May Also Want to Check Out:

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        A Million Elephants: A Brand Bringing New Life to Artisan Goods https://www.consciouslifeandstyle.com/a-million-elephants/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-million-elephants https://www.consciouslifeandstyle.com/a-million-elephants/#respond Sun, 27 Jan 2019 21:46:06 +0000 https://consciouslifeandstyle.com/?p=4475 A Million Elephants is an ethical accessories brand with artisan-made products made from upcycled and all-natural materials.

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        Since starting my blog, I’ve curated, shared, and researched hundreds of ethical brands, and the story and mission behind A Million Elephants is among the most powerful.

        The inspiration for A Million Elephants began when founder Brittany Petrie decided to take solo backpacking trip through Laos in 2017. Though she understood the history of Laos well, with her father having grown up in Laos, the trip brought the realities in full view to Brittany. She specifically recalls the striking moment she encountered a child who was the same age as her own son selling goods handcrafted from war shrapnel.

        That evening catalyzed the inception of A Million Elephants, and today Brittany works with artisans from across Laos to share their handmade, unique crafts with the world. This creates an important source of supplemental income for the artisans. The Lao artisans craft these goods from a variety of materials, including jungle vine, exotic wood, woven bamboo, silver goods, and even recycled aluminum from bombs.

        A Million Elephants‘ collection encompasses a variety of scarves, bags, jewelry, home goods, stationery and other goods crafted by indigenous artisans from across Laos using traditional, generations-old techniques.

        Artisans of the indigenous group, the Khmu, create bags made from jungle vine, while artisans from a small village in the Xieng Khuang province craft jewelry and goods from recycled aluminum from bombs and other war scraps.

        Though it’s not widely known, Laos was heavily bombed during “America’s Secret War” from 1964 to 1973, when the U.S. flew 580,000 bombing missions on Laos. (To put that number in perspective, this would be the equivalent of one bombing mission every eight minutes for nine years straight.)

        This dark history has heavily impacted the communities in Laos. However, as Brittany points out, “Laos people are incredibly resourceful, resilient, talented, hardworking and creative.” And these crafts from A Million Elephants made by artisans in Laos are proof of that.

        A Million Elephants Scarf and Bracelet

        Founder Brittany kindly sent me one of A Million Elephants’ scarves handwoven by artisans in Northern Laos, and the detailed work on this piece is simply incredible. The beauty of the details are one of the reasons I treasure artisan-made goods so deeply. And this scarf was no exception—I’m mesmerized by the intricacy of the design on this piece, and love that I can keep it as a throw on my chair when I’m not wearing it.

        And the design is gorgeous and practical—it pairs beautifully with white or beige, as well as reds and corals. I also really love how it looks with jeans and booties, like I have it styled in these photos.

        From afar, the blanket/scarf looks like an abstract print, but the edges actually have elephant motifs lining them. I absolutely adore this small but meaningful touch, as it immediately reminds me of the brand, A Million Elephants, and subsequently, the mission behind the product and brand.

        Plus, of course, being in the Chicago area, I need all the warm pieces I can get! So I’m excited to have this piece to wear the piece as a scarf outside on chilly days or to use as a blanket when I’m relaxing indoors. I often buy scarves (they’re probably my favorite accessory) but too frequently choose scarves because I simply like the style or color of them and they end up being far too lightweight to actually keep me warm.

        Thankfully, this scarf has all the style—and also the warmth of a true winter weather accessory.

        This versatile piece is also exactly what I’ve been looking for to bring with me when I travel on planes and trains.

        Blanket/Throw from A MILLION ELEPHANTS

        I also received a sample of the classic bangle crafted with recycled aluminum from bombs and other war scrap metal. To see the work these artisans have done to use the materials that contaminate the land into art left me a bit awe-struck. After trying on the bracelet, I couldn’t help but think of the cliché, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

        The extraordinary artisan crafts from A Million Elephants are undeniably special and I am looking forward to being able to tell the story behind this ethical brand every time I wear one of these pieces out.

        WHY IT MATTERS

        To be completely honest, before reading about A Million Elephants I wasn’t familiar with the history of Laos at all. And for anyone else who is also not familiar with Laos and America’s Secret War, here’s a brief history:

        From 1964 to 1973, Laos was heavily bombed by the United States during the Laotian Civil War as part of the U.S.’s fight against communism. This nine-year period of continuous bombing activity is known as America’s “secret war” and is recognized as one of the heaviest bombardments in history.

        This secret war led to the death of 10% of the Lao population. And the casualties extended far beyond the conclusion of the bombings—approximately 20,000 civilians have been killed or injured by unexploded ordnance (UXO).

        And the devastating harms are still felt today—each year there are nearly 50 casualties from UXO. Additionally, the remaining UXO have contaminated much of Laos’ farmland, creating economic hardships.

        And while the U.S. has stepped up to contribute funds for UXO clearance, the money pales in comparison to the money spent for bombing. According to the organization Legacies of War, from 1993 to 2016, the “U.S. contributed on average $4.9M per year for UXO clearance in Laos” while “the U.S. spent $13.3M per day (in 2013 dollars) for nine years bombing Laos.”

        If you’d like to support the civilians of Laos, I encourage you to check out A Million Elephants’ beautiful accessories and home goods. Not only does each purchase enable artisans to sustain their crafts, but 10% of A Million Elephants’ profits go to an NGO in Laos. Brittany will donate 10% of 2018 profits to MAG International, an organization that works in countries affected by conflict to clear landmines and cluster bombs, manage and destroy arms and ammunition, and educate communities.

        This post has been generously sponsored by A Million Elephants. As always, I only share brands I believe in and would share otherwise. And as you could probably tell from reading the post, I feel particularly passionate about the work this brand is doing!

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