My Ethical Shopping List

This past weekend I met up with some college girl friends and at one point during the deep conversation, I was able to open up about my journey to shop with conscience. I love these opportunities because this cause is so close to my heart. But it is also a sensitive topic that people can very easily be defensive or feel judged about. My sweet friend (Hi Natalie!) jumped and grabbed a pen and asked “what are your favorite shops?” I can’t describe how happy that made me that maybe just one other person is interested in changing some of their habits. If you find yourself in a similar place, but don’t know where to start, here is my list. And I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Personal Favorites:

  • *Pact cotton basics: socks, undies, tshirts, etc for men/women/baby (Dave loves the socks I got him from here)
  • *Krochet Kids stylish fair trade clothing made by women in Peru and Uganda who are pursuing their personal dreams. Each item is signed by the creator #knowwhomadeit
  • *Patagonia this well known company has a fair trade section and their other products are so well made you will only buy them once. 
  • *Everlane designer styles with radically transparent production
  • *Brass designer quality dresses and tees (more coming soon!) with transparent sourcing and amazing customer service
  • *Eileen Fisher designer quality and fashion with ethics and supply you can feel good about supporting
  • *Rifle Paper Co I recently told a friend “I want a Rifle Paper Co.-themed life.” Everything is made in the USA and the quality and art is phenomenal. 
  • Nisolo Men and Women’s clothing and accessories, I can’t wait to someday get a pair of these shoes
  • *ChapterTen Watches I have been eyeing these for a while and am hoping I can get one of these beauts soon. (UPDATE: Dave got me one of these for our first anniversary, I wear it every day)
  • *Matt and Nat  these have me drooling… sigh (UPDATE: I found one of their purses on thredup and LOVE it)

Other Companies I would love to try:

Further Resources:

Some companies to try to avoid supporting:

Note: I myself have shopped at most of these places (and still buy kitty litter at Walmart), but it’s good to be aware.

  • Victoria Secret (source | source)
  • Forever 21 for sourcing cotton from Uzbekistan where children are forced to harvest cotton (source)
  • Aeropostale for sourcing cotton from Uzbekistan (source)
  • Toys ‘R’ Us for sourcing cotton from Uzbekistan (source)
  • Urban Outfitters for sourcing cotton from Uzbekistan (source)
  • H&M sweatshops and child labor (source | source)
  • Nike (source)
  • The Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic  (source | source | source | video)
  • Ralph Lauren (source)
  • Disney sweatshop use in China, Bangladesh and Haiti (source)
  • Nestle child labor is used in their cocoa production
  • Walmart (source | source)

Shopping Ethically 101

I explained why I put effort into shopping from socially responsible companies and the heart change that led to that in my last post. But I know that leaves the challenge of actually doing it in everyday life. Here are the results of my research so far. I’m no where near where I want to be, but if I can give you a head start by sharing what I’ve learned then it’ll be even more worth it.

  1. I created a bookmark in my browser to collect companies I like as I come across them.
  2. Use this little chart to help make purchase decisions:

3. I've collected this list of companies. My own Ethical Shopping Encyclopedia. 

4. Furter resources: 

Building your own Capsule Wardrobe

I’ve been asked a couple time this week how to start building a capsule wardrobe and so I figured I just lay it all out there for you. If you’ve wondered how I did it, here it is!

The basic mindset behind a capsule is a rejection of materialism. Your clothes do not make you. You do not need a new ____ for an event or to feel pretty or confident. A capsule wardrobe is meant to help you have a healthy relationship with your closet, not one ruled by whipping out your credit card whenever you feel stressed, sad or blah.

If you’re ready to get started, the Basics are:

  1. Purge — Only keep things that:
    • Fit you right now
    • Work for your lifestyle
    • Are in good shape (you won’t wear something that’s worn out, no matter how much you used to)
    • Are right for the season (if something fits in all the other categories and you’re saving it for a different season’s capsule, pack it away for then)
  2. Assess — jot down on paper:
    • What styles of clothing do you need for you life? (casual, lounge, professional, formal, etc)
    • What is your style goal? (Do you want to be more urban, preppy, outdoorsy, etc.)
    • What color scheme do you want to wear for the season? (stick to a couple main colors and a few accents per season to keep things easy to mix and match)
    • What pieces are your current favorites? (These will reveal quite a bit about your style and the direction you should head in)
    • What outfits are your favorites to wear? (leggings and boots, sweater and jeans, 3 piece suit, etc.)
  3. Decide — Make guidelines for yourself:
    • How many items will your capsule include (Exclude: pjs, undies, workout gear, and cocktail attire)
    • A Budget (a reasonable amount to cover your needs)
    • Specific pieces you need (Identify what you need to fill gaps in your wardrobe and how much you will spend on it)
  4. Shop — Go out or online and find pieces that are:
    • Within the budget you set for yourself
    • High Quality (try resale companies like ThredUp and ebay to keep costs down)
    • The right size (make sure they fit you right now)
  5. Wear — This is when you get to:
    • Wear only your capsule wardrobe for 3 months
    • Put away all other clothes into storage or donate (excluding pjs, undies, workout gear, and cocktail attire)
    • Don’t go shopping (I’ve found it helpful to stash things I’m tempted to buy on a Pinterest board and go back after the 3 months is over to see if I still want/need any of it)
    • Discover those same clothes in many different combinations.

You’ll find you have less clutter, an easier time getting dressed, and an improved sense of your style. I’ve found a surprising feeling of freedom from doing this. I can almost guarantee you will too.

Good Luck!


Shopping with Conscience

For a while I’ve had a tugging on my heart about shopping. Specifically what companies do with the money I spend. I think the first thing I encountered were the images that pop up regarding forced labor in garment factories. If you do a quick Google search for “human rights” and “factory slave labor” you quickly find a glut of images, articles and even videos like thisthis or this. According to wikipedia a modest estimate places the numbers of modern slaves above 20 million. Slaves! As in people who aren’t free, who are exploited for labor, trade, sex and things I can’t even imagine. If you think you have nothing to do with all that, take this little quiz or watch this video. When the only thing that matters for a company is their bottom line and selling more and cheaper stuff, the results aren’t pretty.

As I discovered these evils at first I wanted to plug my ear and yell back “that’s just trying to pull at my heartstrings. That’s not real. Crazy sensationalists.” But it kept rearing its ugly head and from multiple sources, that my heart soften and I became heartsick. I may have cried, sworn I’d never buy another thing and become overwhelmed by the evil in the world. While that vow isn’t realistic it shows that truth — even sad, terrible truth —  is a great impetus to fuel change in habit and action.

I’ve spent months with a hurting heart and confused on how to go about my life in a responsible way. I’m sure I’m not at the end of that journey, but for now my approach looks like this:

  • Pray. I’m not in a place where I can go change political policy in India or any other country with oppression. I can pray for those in these conditions and I believe that in itself is a huge contribution to the battle.
  • Learn to make do. I take a moment to think if I might have something that will work instead of buying something new.
  • Quality over Quantity. When purchasing new things, I resist the urge to just buy the cheapest thing. Those cheap things are cheap for a reason. One of those reasons may be that the workers used to produce it weren’t treated correctly. Look for things that are created with transparency and that will last for a long time — keeping that stuff out of a landfill and someone from having to create another cheap thing. (Note:  I’m not against capitalism, I am against capitalism driven by greed, lust, and materialism to the detriment of our fellow human, the environment and ourselves.)
  • Realize this has to become a mindset. In our culture of insane consumerism (ie.: any Walmart on Black Friday), it is extremely hard to step back and thoughtfully consider what I really need. Realistically that looks like thinking through every purchase I make.
  • Holding myself to a standard of Progress not PerfectionI’ve had anxiety attacks in stores feeling suffocated by not being able to buy anything because I don’t know where it comes from. Not a good place to be in. So in those moments I try to do the next right thing. Deny myself that shiny new thing in the moment, go home and research a responsibly sourced alternative. Currently I’m working on clothes shopping ethically and then I’ll pick another aspect of life to transition to ethical shopping. If I try and do it all at once, I crumple under the pressure. And when I fail, I remember grace and try again. I’m breaking a habit that my entire life has taught me, it will take a while to break.

It may take a little more work and a lot more self control, but I’ve found some companies that I’m so so excited to buy from and support what they’re doing. It’s an amazing feeling to know my hard earned money is going to help people and give me a high quality good.