My Favorites This Week

When I quit social media a few weeks ago I didn’t intend to quit the blog too. I promise! But three weeks later and I am only now sidling back on here…oops! I must have needed a longer break than I first thought.

In the few weeks I’ve been MIA I’ve come across so many things that I love – they are inspiring me or convicting me or just making me happy. Here are a few of my favorites:

An Insightful Documentary.

On Saturday I was going to re-watch episodes of Rehab Addict on Netflix (because seriously, she has my dream job) but ended up watching this documentary instead. Four college guys spend the summer in Central America living on one dollar a day. They did a really great job of authentically living below the poverty line.  It was eye opening and challenging….if you have Netflix, you need to watch this.

A Really Good Book.

Last fall I started listening to the audio version of the book More or Less while I trained for my half marathons (side note: our team raised over $160,000 for the orphanages in India! Happy dance!). I never quite finished the book so I decided to start listening again. So glad I did. It’s a book about excess and giving and understanding that we have something to offer others. Like the documentary, it’s reminding me that I am rich, I have so much, and what am I going to do with the influence and excess that I possess?

An Eye-Opening Mini-Series.

I just started watching this mini online series that follows a group of Scandiavian fashion bloggers as they meet the people who make their fast fashion clothes. It’s interesting to see real life women from real sweatshops. It puts a face to the problem. It humanizes the issue and honestly, just like the other things I’ve been digesting, has been reminding me how incredibly privileged I am and if I have the power to help these people half way around the world, what am I going to do?  This seems to be a recurring theme from the last week or two!

A New Project.

And last, but not least, I’ve been spending a lot of time on Etsy because I have a shop now! I started a little vintage shop a few months ago because I really, truly love old stuff.  I have been kinda blown away with how successful it has been and how much I love tinkering around and searching for stuff to add to to the shop.

Have you read or discovered anything inspiring or interesting lately?

I Quit Social Media This Week

I quit social media this week // Notes From A Thoughtful Life

This week I quit social media. I signed out of Facebook. I deleted Instagram, Bloglovin’ and Pinterest from my phone. It’s only for a week and I will probably go back to using all of them next week but I needed a break. A fast, if you will. Space from the constant noise and commentary and drama that seeps into my life via the internet.

I’ll be honest, it’s the best thing I have done in a long time.

I didn’t realize how MUCH I reach for my phone when I’m bored or when I need an escape or just out of habit. It’s seriously all the time.

I didn’t realize how MUCH I allow the gentle wash of public opinion and ideas and endless sharing to shape me. I tend to avoid drama, I like to think that I don’t get crazy envious over the perfect parts people share – the wonderful homes, the great fashion, etc. – but I can’t deny that it has had an effect on me, even when I thought it didn’t.

The blank space that this break created has let me see myself again. To stop seeing myself in relation to the dozens of people I came in contact with everyday through Facebook and Instagram and blogs. Strangers, friends, they all had a part to play in what I thought about, how I saw myself and my home and how I felt about my life.

We only have so much room for thoughts in our life. In one day, we can only fill our heads with so many opinions and ideas and cares. We are limited people. At least I am. Once we reach those limits, it’s all just noise. It’s overwhelming. It’s too much. It’s distracting.

If I only have capacity for so much before it becomes detrimental, what do I want to focus on? Do I really want to spend my day mulling over the debative articles and comments I just read on Facebook or reading blogs that I like but really just make me feel like what I am doing isn’t quite right? Is all this information and commentary making me a better mother, wife and person or just distracting me from my real purpose?

When I get back on social media next week I am getting back on with a different mindset. I would rather spend time thinking about how to love my family, care for my friends, grow my business and love my God instead of getting sucked into the constant cacophony of the internet. I’m not exactly sure of my plan yet but there are going to be limits.  Less time online, more time with the things that count. Maybe there will be some blogs or Instagram accounts that I won’t follow anymore. Some friends’ constant shares will be hidden from my newsfeed. Basically, I am going to be asking: Is it worth it? Is it necessary? Is it helping me be better and love better or is it just distracting?

There is beauty in simplicity, in less noise, in more space. There is something special about not having a part in everything, about caring about the right things and letting all the rest go. It’s a good thing.

Have you ever quit social media? How did it go?

A Fair & Ethical Christmas Roundup

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Need some Christmas inspiration? Here is a round up of all sorts of fair and ethical, handmade or just plain awesome blog posts, gift guides and tutorials to help you make this Christmas super awesome!

FAIR & ETHICAL GIFT GUIDES

15 Clutter Free Gift Ideas // Nourishing Minimalism (love these ideas!)

2014 Tiny Twig Gift Guide // The Tiny Twig

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Ethical Christmas Guide for Men // One Fair Day

Buy Once, Give Twice: Gifts With A Conscious // Jen Hatmaker (she has so many good ideas!)

Gift Ideas That Give Back // Thoughts By Natalie

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DIY CHRISTMAS DECOR

Woven Stocking DIY // A Beautiful Mess

Printable Christmas Cards to Color // Mr. Printables (they are so cute and my kids LOVED coloring them.  Heck, I had fun too!)

Paper Cut Winter Village // Lia Griffith (This cutout is on our mantle and I love it, though I was super lazy and didn’t cut out all the windows.  Still looks good.)

 

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JUST SOME EXTRAS

Parents, What Expectations Are We Setting For The Holidays? // Becoming Minimalist

A Very Zero Waste Christmas // The Note Passer

When You Need To UnDecorate For Christmas // The Nester

This is my last blog post until the new year!  I am taking the next few weeks off to focus on my family and enjoy my favorite season.  See ya on the flip side!

 

 

Tips For Your Biggest Ethical Shopping Dilemmas

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You guys.  I tried making an ethical gift guide.  One of those pretty ones with lots of product pictures and links and suggestions for everyone on your list.  It was going to be awesome.   But here is my problem: I couldn’t choose.  There are soooo many great companies and products out there that I literally wanted to include them all!  It’s hard to make these kinds of decisions, you know.  So rather than just create a gift guide as long as The Ethical List I decided to go a little bit different direction.  I am tackling some common ethical shopping dilemmas, some of which you guys have mentioned and some that I struggle with too. Hopefully it will be a helpful guide for you (and me!) to make better, more thoughtful shopping choices this month!

Dilemma #1: I need some easy, responsibly sourced stocking stuffers!

Me too! Here are some ideas:

  • Fair Trade treats like chocolate bars, truffles or sample bags of coffee.
  • Handmade cards, stationary or small art prints (I personally love Rifle Paper co, 1 Canoe 2 and Quill & Fox).
  • All natural, ethically sourced body care products like lip balm, travel size lotion, etc. (hint: The Body Shop sources Fair Trade ingredients and Target has a decent range of all natural body care.)
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Pact socks
  • Cozy socks from Pact.
  • New toothbrushes (Please tell me I am not the only one who always got a new toothbrush in their stocking?!) Preserve makes great ones for adults and kids from recycled yogurt containers.
  • Simple bracelet or earrings from a shop like 31 Bits or Mata Traders.

Dilemma # 2: I am surrounded by tech geeks! Is there such a thing as ethical electronics?

There is good news and bad news. The bad news is that there really aren’t any ethical electronics companies. Some companies are better than others (here are two guides that rate tech companies: 1 /2) but none of them are all that great. The good news is that there are some pretty great places to find accessories for all your tech lovers. Uncommon Goods is a B Corp certified business and has a fun selection of handcrafted or unusual gadget accessories. Etsy is also a great place to look for handcrafted speakers, ipad or iphone docks and more. LSTN Headphones give hearing aids to someone who needs it when you buy a pair of headphones.

Cardboard ipad TV stand via Uncommon Goods
Cardboard ipad TV stand via Uncommon Goods

Dilemma #3: Where can I find ethical gifts for my kids that they really want to play with?

As much as I love Fair Trade, there really is not much out there for kids once you get past the stuffed animals and cutesy gifts. I really want to buy ethically sourced toys as often as possible but I also want them to be toys that my kids will love and play with for a very long time.  Here are a few companies I came across that sell great toys but also have high ethical standards:

Firetruck via Green Toys
Firetruck via Green Toys

Green Toys:  made in the USA from recycled materials.  They have the coolest trucks and cars.

Plan ToysHape Toys: Both companies produce crazy awesome toys that are eco-concious and sustainable.  They don’t clearly state their labor standards on their websites but their commitments to sustainability and the community give me a lot of confidence in their companies!

Tegu: Magnetic wood block sets made fairly in Honduras.

If you have a coloring and drawing lover, *raises hand* Crayola products are made in the USA.  Hasbro games are too.

ANNNND…this might be a little outside the box but I just purchased a vintage Fisher Price Little People play village off Ebay for my kid’s big Christmas gift (shhh…don’t tell!).  My daughter loves playing with my mom’s Little People house, which I also played with for HOURS when I was a little kid so I am hoping this will be perfect!  They are all over Etsy and Ebay if you want to go snag one of your own.

Dilemma #4: It’s a few days away from Christmas and I am just now starting my shopping. Can I still find ethical gifts?

Yes! If you are lucky enough to have a Fair Trade or local made shop in your hometown, these are great places to find last minute fairly made gifts! If not, look for ethical or made in USA brands in regular stores. Like I mentioned above, Crayola products and Hasbro games are made in the US. You could also check out B. toys (found at Target) – they are cute, make an effort towards sustainability and appear to be strict about their sourcing standards.

If you are close to Whole Foods (or a natural food store), they have great ethical gift options, especially for foodies. Create a Fair Trade tea or coffee gift basket – or make it a chocolate one for that matter! Gift a luxurious Fair Trade lotion or body care set.

Upscale consignment stores are great places to find like-new, on trend clothes and accessories and if you have a vintage lover, the good old thrift store might be the perfect place to find a gift!

Don’t forget there is always experience oriented gift options – a gift card to their favorite restaurant, tickets to a show, a membership to the zoo or art museum, art classes, etc.

 

Got any tips to add? Where are you looking for fair and ethical gifts this year?

A Better Alternative to Black Friday

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Black Friday, and I guess now Black Thursday, is always awkward for me. Part of me wants to run out and snag these amazing deals because seriously, the thrill of the hunt, dirt cheap prices – why not? But then the other side of me struggles because of these two facts:

ONE

Last year Americans spent 57.4 billion dollars over the four days after Thanksgiving.  57.4 BILLION! Honestly, I can’t even wrap my head around that. To give a bit of a comparison, WHO estimates that it would cost 22.6 billion dollars to provide clean water and sanitation for every single person who needs it. Half of what we spent over the 2013 Thanksgiving weekend. One of the world’s most basic needs is financially viable but that money is tied up in discounted TVs and cheap clothes and all the other things us Americans insist on buying.

TWO

When products are sold cheap it often means the labor behind the product was cheap too. It means factory workers in Bangladesh, India, China and other places around the world were paid below minimum wage and worked long, often unpaid, overtime so that those $5 pjs and dirt cheap stocking stuffers could arrive at your local store in time for today.

For me, knowing these two things makes Black Friday lose some of its luster. And it makes me a little frustrated. Our excess at someone else’s expense. It’s just not fair.

However, I don’t like to be a Debbie Downer if there is not a solution. There is no point in making us all feel guilty about buying if there wasn’t a better way, right? So if you, like me, are a little frustrated by the craziness of this shopping season and need a new way to shop, one that doesn’t feel so selfish and excessive, here is your alternative:

Shop with companies that provide fair wages and source their products ethically.

It’s that simple. You are still getting the things you need (or want) but the people behind the products are treated fairly. Your purchase is giving someone a job. Not just a job that barely keeps them fed but a job that provides for them and their family, sends their children to school and helps them rise above the cycle of poverty. Not to mention some products even provide things like clean water or education. It’s a win all the way around!

If you need a place to start, check out The Ethical List. Every company on this list abides by fair and ethical sourcing practices so you can shop with confidence!

Here is the the icing on the cake – there are tons of fair or ethical companies having sales this weekend too! Here are a few great ones to get you started:

MATA TRADERS (clothes and jewelry)
Through Tuesday, use the code 5DAYS to receive 25% off your purchase of $25 or more, plus a free gift (different each day).

TEN THOUSAND VILLAGES (home decor, accessories and gifts)
Buy one, get one 50% off on all jewelry through Sunday.

BE GOOD CLOTHES (clothes)
Today only Be Good is selling all their “not quite perfect” clothes at a discounted price.

THREADS FOR THOUGHT (clothes)
40% off all regularly priced goods

WILDLY CO (kids clothes)
30% off their entire store all weekend long

31 BITS (jewelry)
20% off and a free bracelet

GREEN HEART SHOP (home, kids, clothes, accessories and more)
30% off and free shipping with the code FAIRBLACK

EVERLANE (clothes, bags, shoes)
All profits from Black Friday are going back to the factories that made the products!

PACT (socks, underwear)
40% off storewide

Happy shopping!

Reads & Recommends

Just a few of my favorite things from around the internet this week…

5 Ways to Spend Less & Give More This Christmas // Life+Style+Justice

 

The Ethical Wardrobe, Part II: Who Made My Clothes // Birds of A Thread

 

Hospitality. But Not the Kind You Are Thinking Of. // The Nesting Place
If my home isn’t a place for me to rest, be, learn, hide and grow, then it will never be that place for others, no matter how passionate I am about it.
(as a fellow INTJ,  I so related to this post!)

On Thursday we had a Thanksgiving dinner with a group of our friends and I was in charge of bringing the pies.  I made the two below and they were so darn good, I ate the leftovers for breakfast!  Not even joking.  So if you need some Thanksgiving pie inspiration here ya go!

Classic Pumpkin Pie // Smitten Kitchen

Maple Walnut Cranberry Pie // Cooking Light

Happy Weekend!

 

 

 

The Case for Ethical Holidays

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that is almost Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving! Seriously, where did this year go?

Despite the fact that this year has sped by, these last two months of the year are my favorite with a capital F. I really, truly love everything about them! So I will probably be the last person jumping onto a soapbox (not much of a soapbox person in the first place) and yelling hatred towards the whole mass produced, shop-like-crazy Christmas deal because honestly, I love this season – flaws and all. I love giving gifts. Getting gifts. Finding gifts. I like how celebratory and special everything feels, even the grocery store. I love the decorations and lights and warm drinks and the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade and Christmas trees. Yes, the commercial overbuying aspect of Christmas gets on my nerves occasionally but there is so much more to the holidays than that. I can easily tune it all out with cookies and Michael Buble and candles and Peanuts characters getting their dance on!

My challenge this season is blending my convictions on buying ethically and fairly with my love for gift giving and all things holiday. I’ve talked before about using our excess for good and since Thanksgiving and Christmas are the epitome of excess I think this is a great place to start!

The last thing I want is for my eagerness to celebrate and give to be the thing that causes another person to stay in poverty, you know? That bugs me. Our pleasure in exchange for someone else’s struggle should never feel right.

fair-ethical-christmas

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing ways to celebrate, give and decorate without supporting the slavery and unethical labor that is behind so much of what we’ll snatch off the shelves this month. I think it’s completely possible to blend both the gift giving AND the protection of life for others around the world. What we do and what we buy matters. It’s that simple.

My question for you is this: what do you think your biggest struggle will be this season when it comes to shopping ethically and fairly? Mine will probably be the temptation to impulse buy all that super cute stuff they put out for stocking stuffers and such – the things I didn’t even want until a minute ago!

My Favorite Ways to Shop Ethically

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We have snow you guys!  After our unusually warm fall, winter came out of nowhere and is currently dumping six inches and counting of glorious snow!  I am officially in the Christmas mood.  It can’t be stopped.  Sipping coffee, listening to my Pandora Christmas music station, lighting candles…sigh…this time of year is the best.

Anyway, I digress.  The real point of this post is not snow or the holidays, it’s about ethical shopping options.  I’ve talked a lot about fair trade but that is not the only way to shop ethically.  And honestly, it’s not my first option, due to our small budget.  Fair trade products are more of special purchase or splurge items for me, things I buy to round out whatever I already own.  Wanna know how I shop ethically most of the time? Of course you do!

If you need a refresher as to why shopping ethically is a good idea in the first place, check out this post.

Option #1: Buy Secondhand & Gently Used Items

Buying things secondhand is what I do most often.  Thrift stores, consignment shops, yard sales, vintage boutiques, Craigslist, clothing swaps, used book stores, online “thrift” stores like Thred Up or Twice…there are a million different ways to buy used and second hand items.  This is my go to method of ethical shopping for a number of reasons.  One, it’s something I can easily do because it’s affordable and more importantly, by purchasing gently used items we are doing a lot of good.  We are avoiding the unethical labor that can be tied to new products and we are helping the environment, as new items take a lot of resources to manufacture and cause a significant amount of pollution. (source/source)  To top it all off, if you choose to shop at local thrift stores many of them exist to care for the community so you are supporting excellent outreaches in your own city!

Option #2: Remake & Reuse It

So maybe this is an anti-shopping option? A long time ago I read this quote in a book about Parisan fashion:  “If she loves it, she won’t toss it.  She reuses, rethinks it, lets it age.”  I LOVE this.  I’m learning to fix the broken stuff, mend the tears and “shop” my home for things to reuse instead of immediately hoping down to Target.  Pretty sheets I love but can’t use have become curtains.  My daughter’s hole-y leggings turn into shorts for under her skirts.  Things like that.

Ollivier-quote

Living in the culture we do, it’s easy to believe we need new things all the time.  As soon as we don’t like something or it breaks or gets a hole, it’s time to move on and buy something new.

For me, part of ethical shopping is learning to embrace what I have and make it work.  The value in this is that we aren’t contributing to the overwhelming amount of consumption that is becoming the trademark of our generation.  We are being content with the things we own instead of constantly buying more and “upgrading”.  The sweatshops around the world exist in part because our culture demands more stuff.  When we go along with this and buy just because we can, we are part of the problem.  Does that make sense?

So, when I need things – new clothes or curtains for the house or something similar, I first decide if I really need to purchase it new.  Can I re-purpose something I already own?  Could I buy what I need secondhand?  If neither of those options work, then I look at Fair Trade/ethical or conventional options. 

This might sound like a drawn out process and just a bunch of over thinking crap – which I suppose it could be if you let it – but in reality, it just takes me a few minutes to run through my options and come up with a solution.  I try not to think too hard and get caught up in making sure I make the absolute perfect decision.  Because sometimes I won’t and that is okay.  Sometimes I try using what I have or DIY’ing it and I fail miserably.  It’s life, right?

What are some of your favorite ways to shop ethically?  Let’s hear them!

Ethical Shopping: A Practical Approach (A Guest Post)

Last week I was I was honored to write a guest post for Andrea of Intentional Jane!  I shared my approach to ethical shopping and a little bit about my struggle with burnout.  Here is just an excerpt, click over to her blog to read the rest!

About 18 months ago I started learning more about fair trade and ethical sourcing concepts and it was love at first sight. Make a difference with my purchases? Support fair wages and a better life for someone else just by choosing a different product? Yes please! I was all in. But if you’ve ever tried to make a huge lifestyle change you know how easy it can be to get overwhelmed.

After a few months the project that was once so exciting loses its luster and you are back to where you started. This was me. I bit off more than I could chew and quickly got in over my head. If I buy this product ethically then maybe I should buy this other thing ethically too. What about my toilet paper or paper clips or scrub brushes? If I don’t buy every single thing ethically should I even buy anything ethically at all? Where does it end?!

Nothing like getting overwhelmed to make you feel like quitting all together! This over-achieving fail taught me an important lesson…

…but you’ll have to visit Intentional Jane to read the rest!

 

Half Marathon #3: Rush Creek Stampede

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Saturday I got up at 5:20 (FIVE TWENTY!!) for a two hour drive into the mountains for half marathon number three, Rush Creek Stampede.  Which, let’s be honest, was more of a plod then stampede! But you know, whatever.

Plodding aside, this race was my jam.  I had my doubts going into it but I shouldn’t have worried.  It was exactly the kind of race I like.  The City of Trees half marathon was noisy, crowded and stressful for me, the girl who prefers running solo down sleepy, quiet streets over crowds, traffic and group running.  This one was the exact opposite and so, so good.

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Rush Creek Stampede started off foggy and chilly, everything has this misty eery feel to it, but as we got to higher elevations the fog started to melt away and it was absolutely gorgeous.  Oh my goodness.

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These views fed my soul.  Last week was full and busy and a little overwhelming but getting to step away and run down wide open back country roads was so life giving.  I’ve been reading about the importance of self care and this was it.  Everything smelled good, like damp leaves and fireplace smoke and woods.  And it was quiet.  Dead quiet.  I felt like I could breathe deep again.

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If you are just tuning in and have no idea why I am describing a race, well, here ya go:  I am on a team of over 150 other people who are running four half marathons in 30 days to raise support for a group of orphanages in India.  These “Homes of Hope” specifically care for kids affected by HIV/AIDS, giving them a safe place to live and thrive but and also an honorable place to die, if they are too sick.  Every dollar we raise goes directly to these orphanages to fund things like medical care, education, meals and more.

We have one more race to go.  ONE MORE!  So basically, if you want to help support these orphanages, here is your chance!  Simply click here, make a donation (even if it’s only five bucks!) and as a huge THANK YOU you can chose one of these prints for your own.  Just send me a note to let me know you contributed and tell me which print you would like then I will send a PDF file of that print your way!

Thanks so much for following along with me!  If you are tired of hearing me yak about running, no worries it’s almost over. :)