holiday gift guide: 9 unique gifts under $60

Gifting is a skill. It only took me 25 years of life to realize this but boy am I glad I did. Whether it’s someone you’ve known for 45 years or 45 seconds, it’s not always easy to hit the nail on the head. In fact, my biggest anxiety around the holidays isn’t interacting with weird relatives or overeating mashed potatoes—it’s finding the perfect gift for everyone on my list. 

Maybe I expect too much from myself, but there’s almost nothing more satisfying than getting someone a gift that literally encapsulates them. Not a top or another pair of socks but something really thoughtful. Finding a gift like this shows just how well I know someone. That I’ve paid attention to every conversation we’ve had, every stupid GIF we’ve exchanged, and put all that intel into picking out their ideal gift. 

To help you along your own gifting journey this holiday season, here is a curated list of holiday gifts from small and sustainable brands, artists and authors that will catapult you to peak gifting status. 

THEY LOVE YOGA 

Novice or pro, every yogi’s practice can benefit from this thoughtful and inclusive book. Written by well-known yoga teacher and body activist, Jessamyn Stanley, this book is a holy grail for learning yoga postures in a way that is accessible for bodies of all shapes & sizes. Particularly for anyone who has ever walked into a yoga class and thought, “Do I really belong here?” I highly recommend this book for cultivating a deeper understanding of yoga and greater confidence on the mat. 

THEY LOVE POSITIVE VIBES

Anyone have a friend whose all smiles & sunshine? Well, they need this t-shirt. Neo Threads is a woman-owned and operated upcycled clothing brand in New Mexico. Sarah Holley Gonzalez, the designer/owner/creator behind Neo Threads, takes preloved pieces and vintage & whips them into unique, custom garments. Following the brand’s mission, this t-shirt is a testament to the coolest feature someone can have—compassion. 

THEY LOVE TRAVEL

You know that person who won’t shut up about how much they miss traveling? Wildsam Field Guides has them covered. Each guide is like a living, breath map of a specific & special part of the United States. Wildsam recently released their Napa & Sonoma guide, which in tandem with a bottle of California wine, could be the perfect gift for any weary wanderluster. 

THEY LOVE FUN JEWLERY

In a world of Mejuris, it can be hard to find truly unique jewlery, that’s also stylish. Sio Ceramics is a black-owned business operating out of Washington D.C. Touting earrings, necklaces, sassy buttons & “fuck 2020” accessories, Makeda Siobahn Smith makes the pieces jewelry lovers want—and no one else will have. Loving the Daphne the most—perfect for any Zoom meeting, virtual New Year’s party & shameless selfie. 

THEY LOVE ASTROLOGY 

I stumbled upon The Bloomwell this summer while in Ithaca, NY. A store you’d expect to find in Brooklyn or Brookline, this small-town gem offers beautifully curated products with an emphasis on sustainable and small brands. For all the woowoo, “what’s your sign” people in your life, there’s no better gift than this book of Moon Lists. Part astrology, part art, this book will keep them occupied all through the New Year. 

THEY LOVE BEING IN THEIR FEELS 

If there’s one thing 2020 has taught us, it’s that everyone has a lot of feelings. People I’ve Loved makes beautiful illustrations that depict so many relatable real-life moments. What better gift for this shit storm of a year than the artist’s Mood Clock print, sure to prompt a laugh…a cry…and then another laugh. 

THEY LOVE COOL GLASSWARE

After falling down a routine rabbit hole on Depop, I stumbled up this gorgeously curated shop. Saint Met is a collection of vintage and secondhand glassware and home accessories. The color palette of the shop is perfection, so really you can’t go wrong. I’m personally loving this Bikini Glass set. I mean, what better addition to your weekly wine nights with the girls? 

THEY LOVE MINIMALISM 

Sometimes a small gift can make the most impact. Poplinen, a slow & size-inclusive brand, is a go-to for those starting or continuing their capsule wardrobe. On top of offering high-quality wardrobe essentials, 1% of their profits benefit the Step Up Women’s Network, a non-profit that helps connect women to educational and career resources. This statement scarf makes a memorable gift that can fit bodies of all shapes, styles & sizes. 

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THEY LOVE A GOOD DRINK

As someone who is not a pinky-holding sommelier, I find the process of picking out wine for my friends and family, a little daunting. Haus is an up-and-coming Aperitif brand. Aperitifs are popular in Europe, where they’re typically served before or after a meal. Especially during the pandemic, Haus’ Sampler Kit is a great way to expose friends and family to a new happy hour tradition.  

48 hours in Ithaca, NY | sustainable city series

If your ideal getaway is equal parts food, the great outdoors & artisanal adult beverages, Ithaca, NY should be next on your list. Nestled south of Rochester and Syracuse, Ithaca is home to Cayuga Lake—one of the Finger Lakes—countless gorges, and a pretty extensive number of independent brewers & vineyards. But unless you grew up in upstate New York or went to school in the area, you probably wouldn’t think of making a pitstop. And that’s what makes it so magical. Although summer does draw large crowds to Ithaca, there are enough hikes & eateries to make sure your trip is a relaxing and restorative one. 

DISTANCE FROM (by car): 

BOSTON – 5.5 hours

NEW YORK CITY – 4 hours

PORTLAND, ME – 7 hours

HARTFORD – 5 hours 

STAY

There are quite a few areas I’d recommend staying during your visit. If you’re after the true townie experience, find a spot in the Ithaca Commons. Any location along the Commons will get you close to cafes, shops & restaurants. Location. Location. Location. 

If you’re looking for a larger space or something more modern, consider College Town. Located by the Cornell University campus, you’ll never be without a late-night snack or prime people-watching views. 

But the best real estate in Ithaca is located along Cayuga Lake—the closer, the better. My Airbnb wasn’t directly on the water but I did have a pretty epic view from the second floor. Check out some scenes from the space in my latest Vlog. Keep in mind that lakeside properties are the most expensive in the area. Visit during the winter and you could save a bundle! 

MOVE

If you attended college in Ithaca, you know “Ithacalves” are a very real thing. Because of its proximity to the lake and the steep, steep hills on any side of town, Ithaca tends to be a very active place. Start the morning off with a trail run along the lake. Pick up a bike at the Ithaca Bike Rental and explore off the beaten path. Venture out to the beautiful Cornell Arboretum. Or, hike one of the many gorges Ithaca is best known for. Note—if you do head up to the larger gorges, like Taughannock or Buttermilk, go very early or late in the day to beat the crowds. 

SHOP 

No shortage of retail therapy in this little city. Scratch your sustainable itch at The Bloomwell, where you can find brands like Golde and Brightland. Find a fun vintage look at Petrune or a card that captures your wicked sense of humor at Mockingbird Paperie. For the thrifters in the building, head over to the Salvos on Elmira Road. In the market for a trip keepsake? Explore curated contemporary and vintage houseware at Mimi’s Attic or hunt for buried treasure at the Ithaca ReUse Center

EAT

Start every morning with coffee from Gimme or Press Cafe (check hours and Covid restrictions ahead of time!). Dig in to the best flapjacks on the East coast (only a mild exaggeration) at the State Street Diner followed by a very necessary trip to the Ithaca Farmers Market, located just a short drive away. At night, well, good luck deciding. There’s New Dehli Diamonds, Taste of Thai, Hawi Ethiopian Cuisine, and so many more. And for an inspired nightcap, make a reservation at Bar Argos, where the drinks look like something out of Alice in Wonderland.  

Ithaca is a special little city. Regardless of whether it’s your first or 50th time visiting, I promise you’ll leave your vacation with a full stomach and strong urge to plan your next trip back. 

5 ways to influence more responsibly

I follow a lot of influencers. Big influencers. Side hustlers. And everyone in between. Some influencers I follow are exclusively focused on no-spend and diy-ing their products. But the majority are people who either collaborate with brands to promote their products in a mutually beneficial way or purchase brand’s products and use their platforms to review them. 

So how can you promote brands in a sustainable way? Is it possible to promote new products & still exist in this community? Obviously, the answers to these questions are subjective. But in my opinion, the distinguishing factor comes down to thought and intention. 

PROMOTE GOOD BRANDS

If a brand reaches out to you to collaborate, take the time to do research. Do they check all the boxes of an ethical brand? Are they receptive to questions you have? What other influencers have they worked with in the past? If you’re simply purchasing to review on social media, ask yourself, do you really need this product or item? Are you buying into a trend or supporting a brand that aligns with your values? The key to making sustainable decisions relies on being critical of your intentions as well as a brand’s.

TO TAG, OR NOT TO TAG 

I do not tag Everlane. I do not tag Public Goods. I do not tag Package Free. If you don’t agree with a brand, even if you were gifted the product or purchased it second-hand, I repeat, DO NOT TAG THEM. Tagging a brand is social media’s form of endorsement. Once you tag an image, a brand can easily go and share that content with more people. So if you wouldn’t tell your best friend to purchase from a brand, keep it anonymous. 

WHY BLEND IN?

I’ve seen so many Cocokind and Glossier posts that my vision is permanently tinted pastel pink and green. Sure, they’re both brands that I would purchase from, but I often question whether everyone buys them to achieve results—or followers? If you use an ugly but effective product (i.e. my bentonite clay mask), be loud and proud about it! Just because something doesn’t have the sexiest packaging or name doesn’t mean it’s not worth sharing. And if you’re thinking about posting a trendy product, distinguish your content through commenting on its results, quality, or another feature that makes that product truly superior.  

BE HONEST

Nobody’s perfect. If you partner with a brand or purchase a product that turns out to be scummy, tell your followers! Sharing your story can prevent more people from going out and following or purchasing from that brand. It also shows strong moral character and a kind of authenticity that can be hard to find amongst all the filters and hashtags. 

SUPPORT FELLOW SUSTAINABLE INFLUENCERS 

Making it on social media is hard. So it’s all the more important to be mindful about who you’re following. If you notice a “sustainable” influencer is promoting new products left and right, consider that they may not be the best investment of your likes. Search hashtags like #nothingnew or #wearwhatyouhave to find influencers using their power to lower followers’ consumption and reduce waste. 

A friendly reminder that influencers are people too. Inevitably they will make some mistakes but it’s the follow-up of those incidences that can really show a person’s true character. As a follower, be aware of the messages influencers are sending and seek out accounts that are truly sustainable. By increasing the following and engagement of responsible influencers, you’ll be better able to learn about ethical brands as well as ways to conserve and reuse what you already have. 

5 ways to get out of a creative block

As a creative person, there’s nothing more frustrating than when the ideas just won’t flow. You sit there, brow furrowing, wheels aimlessly turning like a car stuck in a ditch, until suddenly, “UGGGGGGGG”, you putter out in defeat. 

For some, creative blocks can last for hours. Others for days. And for the most unfortunate of us, years. Causes of these blocks can range from overworking, stress, unrealistically high expectations of one’s self, and the current place in one’s life. For example, I recently went through a period of about a week and a half when the ideas and motivation just were not running. I didn’t have any genuine interest in sitting down to write, edit, let alone take any worthwhile outfit pictures. With so much going on for each of us personally, especially right now, it can be hard to know where exactly a block is rooted. For me, it was location—I’ve been living in the same neighborhood for three years now, which is the longest my antsy ass has ever lived anywhere, other than my parents’ house. And in typical Alexis form, the sameness of my surroundings had put a damper on my creativity. 

While the causes of creative blocks may vary wildly from one person to the next, the solutions follow a fairly similar pattern. Below you’ll find my favorite exit strategies for these challenging times. All of them promise to push and alter your headspace and coax your mind back to its most beautiful ideas. 

DISCONNECT 

Did you know just the sight of your phone can cause a breakdown in focus? It’s true! Being home in Vermont for the month, where the service and WiFi are equally as terrible, I notice it even more. Unlike in Boston, I can actually sit in my bedroom and read a full chapter without scrolling or surfing in-between pages. Who would have thought?

While phones can be great vehicles of inspiration, they can also be the gateways to our most distracted and distant selves. You could be on the cusp of brilliance and two seconds later, you’re on your phone, diving down a rabbit hole of ASMR makeup tutorials. By putting your phone in another room during brainstorms or writing periods, you put yourself in the best position to explore your mind and focus on the task at hand. 

READ 

…a real book. Okay, Kindles are fine, too. But nothing where you could end up on Instagram. Just the format of a physical book I find draws me in and forces me to think differently from how I do in my highly digital life. Find a genre you most enjoy—no one ‘hates’ reading, just certain genres. My favorite place to read is outdoors in a park or other public areas. In these locations, there’s enough to keep my wandering mind interested, but too much going on for me to get sucked into any one conversation or person. If staying motivated is an issue for you, join a book club and let peer pressure hold you accountable. Or, rent an audiobook from your local library and digest it that way instead. Check out my summer reading list for inspiration to get you started. 

EARLY BIRDS & NIGHT OWLS 

Hands down, my mind is at its best in the very early morning and very late at night. The rest of the time in between that, I’m the human version of a comatose potato. When it comes to getting the creative juices flowing again, you have to set yourself up for success. This means carving out time to be productive and really get into what you’re trying to accomplish. Maybe that’s getting up an hour earlier than everyone else in your house to sit in the kitchen, coffee or tea in hand, and just blow through lists of ideas. Or, letting inspiration strike when it needs to—which might come at 2 am after an eventful night out. Point is, whenever your peak time, make space to let things happen. 

BE BORED

Nope, this doesn’t mean aimlessly scrolling through Instagram. Or rolling out your yoga mat. Choose something like walking someplace familiar or organizing that catchall drawer of office supplies. If you’re like me, you equate boredom with laziness and will find this process very difficult. But the more you’re able to let your mind go rogue and find its own rhythm, the more likely it is to fall onto your next stroke of genius. I find boredom helps me to be less self-critical and accepting of even my most outlandish ideas. So, just let it happen! Love where your mind goes and be open to any and all directions.

GET OUT OF YOUR NORMAL 

Reorganize your room. Start a new fitness challenge. Take a weekend getaway. Spend a Friday night alone for a change. Although our habits can be a source of productivity, they can also hold us back. In seeing and doing the same things on a daily basis, its no wonder your mind needs a siesta every now and again! By finding small ways to break up the ordinary, especially while in lockdown, you give your mind room to spark new ideas and routes of thinking. 

Have your own advice for reigniting creativity? Leave them in the comments below. 

a (sustainable) weekend in boston | sustainable cities series

COVID has dashed a lot of plans. It’s been a wedding crasher, family reunion ruiner, and vacation crusher. And while we can’t really change the circumstances at hand, this forced proximity does have a silver lining. With the option of traveling by plane a less viable option, now is a great time to explore cities & sites a little closer to home. 

I’ll start this series as close as it possibly gets for me—Boston. My current home, it’s safe to say I know Boston pretty well. Although I wouldn’t claim it has the largest sustainable community, there are some great gems in a few different neighborhoods as well as closeby parks & nature reserves you can spend a whole day exploring. So, without further ado, here’s sustainable Boston. 

STAY 

Boston has some great little neighborhoods in it—North End, South End, Jamaica Plain. But if you ask me, it’s just north of the city where you can find a cute & comfy New England experience. As a to-be resident, I’m certainly partial but nonetheless recommend the Cambridge & Somerville areas. Both can be reached by buses as well as the red & orange lines of the city’s subway (the T), making it a convenient location if you’re not traveling by car. If you are, just make sure to book spots on Spot Hero ahead of time—Somerville & Cambridge are not known for their visitor-friendly parking options. I recommend staying two to three days/nights in order to see all parts of the city and some of the surrounding areas.  

my room (hehe)

MY AIRBNB PICKS

Harvard Square Gem 

Airy Sullivan Square Studio

Sweet Winter Hill Apartment

MOVE

Need to stretch your legs? Take a virtual yoga class at And Yoga, run for free along the Esplanade, or take a spin on Blue Bikes. If you’re really feeling ambitious, Goat Yoga is an experience I 10/10 recommend! 

SHOP 

After a few years of searching, I’ve found some small business gems. Cambridge Naturals, Cleenland, and Boston General Store offer everything under the sustainable sun. Loose leaf tea and CBD oil. Refillable household cleaners, floss, and toothpaste. Beeswax wrap and bar shampoo. Pick up something to bring home or an eco-friendly gift for friends & family. 

my favorite Canopy Room @ Bow Market

As for cute boutiques, well, Boston is crawling with them! If plants are more your speed, check out Niche—an aesthetically pleasing shop filled with greenery & gardening supplies. Find a card to send home or sassy tote at Olives & Grace and some handmade goodies & snacks at Bow Market. Swing by The Urban Grape for a classy bottle of wine to drink romantically on the side of Charles (no partner required!). For you book worms, don’t miss Frugal Bookstore, Brookline Booksmith, and Harvard Book Store

And no weekend getaway would be complete without at least one thrift store! If you’re able to get outside the city, Savers in Framingham is a gold mine for great jackets, housewares, and dresses. If you’re looking to stay closer by, Goodwill near BU is pretty well-stocked with good brands. There’s also Boomerangs in the South End, a great place for higher-end brands (all proceeds go to HIV/AIDs causes). 

EAT 

Where do I even start? I could eat my way through Boston, but for brevity’s sake, here are just a few spots you cannot miss. Health-food enthusiasts and vegans must try Life Alive Cafe (located near BU and in Central Square). For a little taste of everything local, try Boston Public Market and find your perfect wine pairing at Taste Wine Bar. For something international, Tasca has cheap and delicious tapas. Moroccan Hospitality is everything the names suggests and more. And Lucy Ethiopian Cafe is a delicious stop for comforting lunch and dinnertime eats. 

a luxurious spread at Taste Wine Bar

GET OUT 

Outdoor enthusiasts, Boston even has something for you. If the Public Gardens aren’t enough, get up early and wander out to Walden Pond for a dip and walk around Thoreau’s old stomping grounds. Break a sweat at Blue Hills Reservation or take some cute IG shots at Harvard Arboretum

Have your own sustainable Boston hotspots? Want me to review the sustainable & local highlights of another New England city? Leave your two cents in the comments. 

5 places to buy used books online (that aren’t Amazon)

One of the first steps I took in my sustainability journey was patronizing my local library. I’m lucky enough to live in Boston, home of the iconic Boston Public Library. In addition to the central location, the library also has 23 satellite locations throughout Boston’s various neighborhoods. This accessibility made the transition from buying to renting absolutely seamless. I’d simply reserve my book online, walk five minutes down the street to pick it up, and drop it off two weeks later in the same location. That’s the beauty of a great library system—the simplicity & financial benefits make it easy to adopt.

But then COVID hit. Not only have I had the same book out for the past five months (I’m not able to make returns at my local branch), I also can only take out books from the central location—a 40 minute T ride away. As much as I love my library and know my longterm support is critical, right now the lack of regular entertainment and the added risk of actually getting to the library has driven me to seek alternatives. 

In keeping with my sustainability goals, I didn’t want to just go running to the first Amazon banner or buy a completely new addition of every book on my wishlist. Thankfully, it turns out there are a lot of online used booksellers that don’t raise money for Jeff Bezos. Better yet, many also contribute to literacy charities or donate books to causes you can feel good supporting.  

ALIBRIS 

Alibris is my go-to for cheap used books. My favorite thing about this online marketplace is that it partners with smaller charity shops and booksellers to help them reach wider audiences. Knowing where the book is actually being shipped from helps me to be more environmentally conscious when choosing where I buy and gives me as the consumer a huge range of price options. 

BETTER WORLD BOOKS 

Better World Books is a great resource for buying used books that give back. Although their prices are not as competitive as Alibris, Better World Books is committed to providing grants for libraries, closing literacy gaps, and cutting back on the number of books that end up in landfills. 

GOOD BOOKS 

Good Books is an Atlanta-based book shop selling vintage & new books. The shop is Black-owned and founded by a mother-daughter team. Their selection celebrates Black authors and boasts titles you’d be hardpressed to find at generic commercial booksellers. 

BOOKSHOP 

Bookshop makes it easy to shop by specific booksellers. The website offers small storefronts a digital platform, helping them reach broader audiences, but also enables you as the buyer to support bookstores in your area from the safety of your home. Unfortunately, I was not able to find a feature to narrow the selection down to only used books but you can narrow down the type of bookstore you’re looking for to “used”. If you’re hoping to support Brown & Black-owned businesses, check out Estelita’s Library and Bookish and Black, amongst other members. 

AUDIOBOOKS 

Unfortunately, Audible is owned by Amazon. The good news? Other audiobook companies have popped up in the past few years—some pretty comparable to Audible’s mammoth selection. 

One alternative I found is Audiobooks Now. After your 30-day trial, it’s $4.99 a month. This price gives you access to popular & relevant titles, like Where the Crawdads Sing and The Color of Law. But keep in mind you will have to pay for each audiobook individually; the monthly subscription just gets you a discount on each book.

The other option out there is Scribd. After your 30-day free trial, you’ll pay $9.99 a month for unlimited digital books and audiobooks. If you’re someone who likes to listen to books and prefers reading from a Kindle or tablet, this is a pretty economical option for you. Scribd has many popular names and makes it easy to discover new titles to add to your summer reading list. 

Speaking of which, here is the list of books I’m sitting down with this summer: 

MY SUMMER BOOKUT LIST 

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter & How to Make Them Count by Meg Jay

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams 

Wildsam Field Guides: Desert Southwest by Taylor Bruce & Caroline Tomlinson 

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion 

Have a favorite online bookseller? Want to share your summer reads? Post them in the comments below. 

inclusivity or bust: why sustainable fashion needs to do more than donate to counter racial injustice

If sustainability had a relationship status, it would read “It’s complicated”. This is because, like many social and political movements, sustainability is anything but linear. It’s robust, complex, and hugely interconnected. When you take a good look, you’re able to see sustainability is not just about using metal straws and reducing waste. To be truly effective, sustainability also must take into account social & economic equality, human rights, accessibility, feminism, and so many more critical elements. So to try to oversimplify sustainability by greenwashing or for the purposes of cutting costs is to undermine all its other essential elements. 

The idea for this blog post actually started with me wanting to share some of my favorite ethical brands. But, after deep-diving into their Linkedin pages and social media, I walked away feeling…discouraged. In response to the current social unrest, many ethical brands have made donations and apologized for their roles in whitewashing the sustainability movement. On the surface, this is good. It’s important for brands to take accountability and for consumers to understand that meaningful change takes time. But, after seeing these brands’ current teams—almost all were completely or majority-white—as well as other glaring holes in their sustainability frameworks, I’m thinking—how can sustainable fashion be accessible & representative when the brands within the industry are currently anything but? 

The bottom line—donating isn’t enough. It’s a good thing to do but it’s not a means to an end in and of itself. So, what do ethical brands need to be doing to create lasting and meaningful change inside and outside of their organizations? Below are the thoughts I have. All require patience from customers, employees, community, and may at first be uncomfortable or even feel counterproductive. But with time, taking the following steps will set a higher standard in the fashion industry and move brands closer towards a truly ethical & sustainable future. 

THOUGHTFUL HIRING   

One of the best ways to judge whether a company is dedicated to a sustainable future is to look at its employees. Is the brand’s team representative of both the professional experience and diverse perspectives necessary to make educated & inclusive business decisions? In order to be profitable and sustainable, brands need a mix of social and business thinkers. The socially-minded thinkers are people equipped to handle community aspects of a brand. These individuals are able to do everything from communicating a brand’s sustainability model to responding to negative social media attention. On the other side, you have business thinkers. These people are responsible for the structure and development of a brand. Because of which, this group tends to be more focused on operations, sourcing, and design processes. 

So why do we need both groups? Let’s look at Reformation for an example. It’s very clear by both their response to accusations of racism and the testimony of Black employees that the brand’s internal structure was in total imbalance. Yes, they may tout sustainable materials and gorgeous designs—the job of business thinkers—but while that part of their business has thrived, their internal and external communities have suffered greatly. 

Although there’s no recipe for a perfect business model, having a representative and professionally diverse team sets ethical brands up to be responsive to business needs and social environments. Brands that embrace differing opinions and encourage critical thought can anticipate their blindspots before someone else does. Whatsmore, with a majority of young consumers feeling, “a strong affiliation to retailers that subscribe to a larger purpose” companies that demonstrate an authentic dedication to social and environmental sustainability stand to win big with their audiences. 

INTENTIONAL SOURCING 

Whether a brand designs and produces its own products or outsources to vendors, social sustainability should be part of both processes. A recent Vogue article followed Renewal Workshop and Parsons design students as they met the suppliers behind some popular ethical brands. The article exposed how rare—yet beneficial—close working relationships between brands and their suppliers are. On the part of suppliers, being able to closely communicate with a brand usually means better wages and safer working conditions. And for the brands, this type of relationship allows for more accurate timelines and less opportunity for error. The article found that taking the time to visit and get to know suppliers can help ethical brands choose “mutually respectful partnership(s)” that align with sustainability goals. More relevantly, this atypical proximity can also help prevent situations as we’ve seen during the global pandemic, where brands pull out of their contracts, leaving suppliers to pick up the bill. 

Brands that create their own products and partner with outside vendors, such as Lisa Says Gah, also have a role to play. These brands, now more than ever, need to welcome POC and Black-owned comapnies to the industry and act as their business allies. There’s no lack of talent out there—Selva Negra, Míe, and AAKS are just a few of the brands that come to mind—and it’s the responsibility of larger ethical brands to practice what they preach on social media.

REFORM SUSTAINABILITY GUIDELINES 

Good on You. BCorp Certified. Fairtrade. Even if you don’t work in sustainable fashion, you’ve probably heard of at least one of these certification organizations. At a glance, the industry standardizations these organizations create are great. They give brands a simple way to distinguish themselves from fast fashion and benefit financially from their missions. But like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, simplification can actually prove very harmful in the context of sustainability. Searching for words like “diversity” and “inclusive” on a few of these organizations’ pages generated slim to no results, which tells us that certifications are missing critical aspects of sustainability. After seeing these sobering gaps for myself, it wasn’t hard to understand why sustainable fashion is currently a mostly white and wealthy community. 

If ethical brands are going to change, they’ll need external guidance. Perhaps this means bringing in third-party consultants for a temporary solution. But long term, the guidelines of sustainability and what is expected from “ethical” brands needs to change. In order for brands to be better, certification groups will first have to make their teams representative enough to prevent blind spots and constantly be reevaluating their processes to make their guidelines more holistic.  

INCLUSIVE SIZING 

Well, this could be its own article, so I’ll try to keep it brief. Here’s what you need to know: 67% of US women are a size 14 or higher. Yet most fashion brands—ethical or not—stop their sizing at an XL or size 12. This shortsightedness is not only discriminatory, it’s also downright dumb. The “Plus” size market is valued at $20.4 billion and counting. And yet, brands still refuse to respond, sighting added costs and design challenges. Meanwhile, brands that have started to extend their sizing, such as Reformation, treat the category like an afterthought, introducing only limited styles and restocking them far less often than smaller sizes. As if the high price of ethical fashion wasn’t enough, people who fall into that extended size category have quite literally been pushed out of the sustainable fashion movement.

So what can brands do? A year or so ago, body positive blogger, Marielle Elizabeth, created a Size Inclusive Survey for brands to use to better understand the desire for ethical, size-inclusive fashion. Brands can use these kinds of guides to better understand the limitations of their current sizing. Or they can collect their own data and use it to expand sizing in a personalized and profitable way. Brands can also look into changing their design processes to make garments easier to alter or restructure their business model to be accommodating to size changes, like Universal Standard has done. Internally too, companies can be more intentional about selecting job candidates who express a first-hand understanding of size and other types of physical exclusions. 

PAID INTERNSHIPS & APPRENTICESHIPS 

No one should be expected to work for free. No one. This whole “pay your dues” mentality that generations still hang their hats on is outdated and out of touch with reality. As someone who interned for free twice in college, I can tell you I could not have done it without the financial support of my parents. And that privilege does not make me any more qualified than someone who cannot afford to make that same decision. 

Compensating interns and apprentices is a great way to open an ethical brand up to students or individuals who may not have even explored the position if it were unpaid. Not only does compensating attract a larger candidate pool, but it also has the potential to bring in talent that brands would otherwise have to spend time and money pursuing. 

These are just a few of my thoughts—I know, I have a lot of them. But I’m interested to know what your reactions are. What areas do you think ethical brands are falling short in? Do you think it’s reasonable to expect these types of changes from even very small ethical brands? Let me know in the comments.  

a low-waste moving guide

‘Tis the season for Allston Christmas, double parking, and bets about whether or not your couch will fit up a very narrow stairwell. Yep, you guessed it, it’s moving day. 

Even with a global pandemic going on, people are still on the go. Whether you’re moving across the world, the country, or—like me—just to a different neighborhood, the following tips will help you reduce some of the waste & clutter that can come with one of life’s most unavoidable transitions. 

Plan ahead! 

Alright my procrastinators, unless you enjoy panic, sweat, and heavy objects, its time to get your butt into gear! Especially if you’re upcoming move is going to require national or international travel, proactive planning can be the difference between a move with minimal hiccups and an in-motion disaster. Now is the time to think about what you really want to bring with you to your new place, how you are getting there, and what you’ll need to move efficiently and with minimal waste.

Reuse. Reuse. Reuse. 

There is already enough cardboard out there—no need to create more! Instead of purchasing boxes, start saving any delivery packaging from online orders and ask your friends to do the same. If that’s still not enough, reach out to managers at local grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurants to ask them to save out any leftover boxes. More than likely they’ll be happy for you to take them off their hands. 

Find your stuff a second-home 

What better opportunity to clean out and start fresh than a move? Just because you find that neon waffle maker your mom gave you offensive doesn’t mean someone else can’t appreciate it. Send out a mass text with photos or a list of things you’re getting rid of to every contact on your phone. Or, if you’ve got a decent social media following, maybe you sell items via your story and let your followers duke it out. Finally, you can also use resale apps like Merchari or Poshmark to sell your unused things for cold hard (virtual) cash, but just keep in mind this way may take longer. 

Donate (almost) anything you don’t want 

Nearly everything that doesn’t sell or get dibbed by a friend should be donated. But before you go, check your donation centers’ policies on items they accept and make sure they’re a good fit for your donations. Places like Savers, for example, will take things like used underwear (they won’t sell them, don’t worry) & socks and have great recycling programs in place. If you have questions about what a center accepts—ask. Otherwise, any unusable or unfit items you bring to donate will likely create challenges for donation center employees and potentially be trashed. 

Check your local curb-side rules

In the current climate, there may be items you can’t get rid of, for example, mattresses. But don’t just put those sad springs out on the street. Look into any low-cost or free pickup service that can extend your item’s lifespan through donation or repurposing. 

Rent right 

Unless you’re an ultra-minimalist (props!), you’re gonna need at least a minivan to move. For most people, this will mean renting a vehicle. When booking your moving van or truck, be sure to pick an option that’s just what you need. Go any bigger and it’s just like boiling a full kettle of tea when you only want a cup. It’s a waste of money, stress, gas, and space. If you don’t know how big a rented vehicle is, check Youtube. There are plenty of videos out there showing how many mattresses can fit in a Uhaul and more practical information to help you make the right choice. 

Anything, just not plastic

If you go out and buy packing peanuts, my heart will break. Tissue paper, towels, clothing—there are so many things you can use to pad breakables that won’t cause waste or add to your load. Reuse any plastic wrapping you get from online orders or purchase a natural paper wrap, if needed. 

Borrow, don’t buy

If you don’t have packing tape, scissors, tools, boxes, etc., I guarantee one of your friends does. Proactively reach out to contacts to see if they have items you need in order to make the move. Consider asking them to save any delivery packaging they receive or even if you can borrow their car for moving day. After all, that’s what friends are for.

Offset your flight

If you’re flying to your new home, consider offsetting the impact of your travel by using a site like My Climate or another carbon emissions calculator. After realizing your impact, you can offset by donating to an environmental organization or planting your own garden/trees. 

Leave no carrot behind

Eat your food, people! Plan out groceries and meals leading up to your move to make sure you’ll have enough to eat without unintentionally being wasteful. Leave a few utensils and pots out so you have cookery available to you even in the days leading up to the move. 

You’re ready to go! For everyone who is moving this summer and fall, I wish you all the best! Remember to eat protein the morning of the move, wear your mask always, and stay cool. 

low-waste deoderant guide

Phew, I stink, I think to myself as my arms fly back up in the air, modeling the pilates instructor’s movements, thank god this is a virtual class.

BO. We all have it—some of us worse than others. And while it’s totally natural to work up a sweat and stench, I think we can all agree finding a great deodorant is something that stands to benefit us all. With summer upon us, now is the perfect time to re-evaluate your deodorant and find a product that loves your pits & the planet.

The deodorant and antiperspirant options at my local CVS span a whole five feet of shelf. You’ve got your sprays, sticks, gels, etc. And yet, even with all the different colors, branded packaging, and catchy buzzwords, these products aren’t all that different from one another. Major manufacturers rely on many of the same types of ingredients, using clever marketing to differentiate from others. Deodorants, intended to cover up our natural odors, often contain phthalates (perfumes & scents) and parabens (preservatives), substances known to mess with the body’s natural hormone levels. And aluminum, commonly found in antiperspirants that stop the body from producing sweat, have shown potential links to Alzheimer’s Disease and Breast Cancer.  

On top of their health risks, conventional deodorants and antiperspirants use a huge amount of plastic to produce. Although most deodorants and antiperspirants are recyclable, they often “contain more than one type of plastic”. This means in order to be properly recycled, you’ll need to take apart your old container, note the different recycling types by their numbers, and check with your local recycling services to see if they’re accepted. If they’re not, all that plastic goes to landfill. 

Now, it’s not surprise that zero-waste and chemical-free options have not necessarily reached the Walgreens of the world. In fact, with few exceptions, these brands rarely advertised on streaming platforms and unless you have some sustainably savvy friends, you probably won’t cross their websites or social media. But if you are able to pay a little more and willing to experiment with a new deoderant, here are some plastic-alternatives worth exploring:  

PAPER – $14 @ Meow Meow Tweet

My favorite deodorant option, Meow Meow Tweet’s plastic-free deodorant stick is a pretty natural swap for most users. Their deodorant stick features hard, cardboard wrapping around a soft, but solid, deodorant stick. When you’re done, just recycle the packaging and toss any product residue. My only word of caution with this stick comes at the end of its life. I spent weeks using up the little leftover nub of deodorant that refused to stay in its container. I didn’t love using my hand to apply the product but it was a minor hiccup in an overall flawless product. Nowadays, Meow Meow Tweet is so popular, you can find this brand at Target, Ulta, as well as your local health food stores.

CREAM – $14 @ Sustainyoself

Don’t mind touching your pits? Deodorant cream could be your perfect mate. Deodorant cream tends to have a frosting-like consistency that applies just like thick body lotion. As a product, deodorant cream is very similar to a solid stick. However, in my personal use, I noticed cream tends to be more prone to melting and a little bit of a mess. This particular cream from Sustainyoself is really nice smelling and offers pretty good all-day smell control—although I will say I’ve found sticks to be a little more effective. 

REFILLABLE – $12 @ byHumankind

If you’re tentative to make the switch to a paper or cream deodorant, this product from byHumankind could be your gateway drug. Featuring hard, plastic packaging, byHumankind’s deodorant solution is very similar to a generic tube. But instead of tossing that plastic after the deoderant is gone, byHumankind allows you to order a replacement stick that you plop right where the old tube was. Whether you opt for their fresh Eauclytis or warm Rosemary Mint, this low-waste product is a step in the right direction. 

DIY – ‘FREE’ 

With all this extra time at home, maybe you want to dive in and make your own DIY deodorant? More power to ya! The blog Simple Green Smoothies uses four ingredients—essential oils, baking soda, arrowroot, and coconut oil—to make their five-star recipe. You can store your DIY mixture in an old lotion container or even spare Tupperware. Making your own product also allows you to tailor your deodorant if you have allergies or a strong preference regarding scent. 

ethical summer shopping guide ft. Black and POC owned brands

Summer is the season of dresses, sandals, and surf-ready suits. And retailers loooove to take advantage of your desire to hit the beach or bar in new garments. Just like advertisers market back-to-school as a chance for reinvention and new beginnings, come summer, adults are hit with the same kind of self-improvement rhetoric. Not only is this all a ploy to get you to buy, its also another opportunity for brands to profit off of our own insecurities. If you really think about it, the whole notion of “bikini bodies” and tan lines are ideas that only exist through the belief that we are not good enough as is, that the other nine months of the year, we’re just ‘ok’. And the more we buy into that wholly unsustainable perception of self, the further we reinforce it. 

So this summer, rather than filling your drawers with cheap swimsuits and sling-backs, I suggest you make purchases that enhance your everyday wardrobe and self-image. In the spirit of pride and self-love, the pieces I am sharing below are entirely sourced from Black and POC founded slow fashion brands. While I have tried to pick out some of the ‘cheaper’ items, many of these garnmets are what I would consider ‘investment pieces’. While you browse, I urge you to look beyond the price tags and acknowledge the social and environmental impact your dollar can have when you buy intentionally from a brand that embodies your values. If it’s financially feasible, supporting Black and POC owned clothing companies is a very tangible way to refuse fast fashion and redistribute the wealth within this industry. 

Sueno Jumpsuit by Selva Negra 

Un sueno indeed. I’m in love with this jumpsuit. Its delicate ruffles and perfectly oversized style would be ideal for a rooftop bar—but equally as welcome in any WFH situation. The jumpsuit is made of 100% linen (a natural fiber) and deadstock fabric (material that would otherwise have been thrown away). 

Selva Negra is a 100% POC owned and operated brand. The founders, Kristen Gonzalez and Sam Romero, studied fashion in NYC before going on to co-found their brand. Although their website doesn’t offer detailed information regarding their sourcing and manufacturing processes, they do use mostly natural fibers and recycle fabrics that would otherwise have been disposed of. The company has also committed to offering more size-inclusive garments, limitsing the use of plastic in their offices, and claims to support organizations like Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and the Wildlife Conservation. 

Tencel Bralette by Proclaim 

‘Nude’ is not one color, okay? Got it? Good. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk Proclaim. If you’re like me, you’re always on the search for a better bra. One that fits every curve and line and makes you feel sexy all at the same time. Proclaim was started by Shobha Philips after a lifetime of having her skin color be ignored by the lingerie industry. In response, Shobha created her inclusively nude line of undergarments and a brand that embraces real women’s forms.  

This bralette, like all of Proclaim’s products, is made mostly from Tencel, a soft, naturally derived fiber created from wood pulp. I love the deep V cut of this bralette and can see it fitting perfectly under any of my summer camisoles. Yes, it’s a true basic but if you’re committed to a sustainable lifestyle and/or capsule wardrobe, a piece like this can offer a great deal of versatility and years of wear. 

California Love Long Sleeve Cotton T-shirt by Adele 

I love a good t-shirt. Tuck it. Knot it. Rock it. All about it. In my opinion, a good t-shirt is always worth the investment because it can be worn in sun, snow, rain, and sand. When you invest in a good staple, like a t-shirt, you’re more likely to circulate it through your weekly wardrobe, rather than retiring it every season for a new one.

Adele was started by its founder and namesake, Adele Jackson. Dedicated to sustainability, art, and “conscious awakening” Adele infuses all her work with a thoughtfulness you’d be hard-pressed to find at any fast-fashion brand. What’s more, 10% of all Adele’s profits are donated to organizations, such as My Friend’s Place, and Adele is committed to using materials and manufacturers that pose the least amount of negative impact to the earth.  

Tia Basket by AAKS 

I have yet to meet a woven bag I’m not instantly obsessed with. And no one does woven bags better than AAKS.

The brand was founded by Akosua Afriyie-Kumi with the goal of sharing the beautiful weaves and vibrant colors of Ghana’s longstanding artisan communities. Made from a combination of leather and palm, each bag is ethically produced and designed to last.

I love this bag, especially for its unique shape and ombre’d color treatment. The handle detailing is absolutely adorable and I know for a fact it can fit anything you’d ever need to summer in style. 

Llamoye Mule by Shekudo 

Mules, mules, mules—I will not tire of them. Crafted from cotton, goatskin, and wood, these babies are head-turners made to be showered with compliments. As for pairings, your options are wide open. I’d suggest a white flare pant or silky floor-length skirt to bring out the best in these shoes. But honestly, it’s hard to do wrong by such a versatile pair of mules. 

All of Shekudo’s shoes are handmade in Nigeria under the careful creative direction of founder, Akudo Iheakanwa. The company makes an effort to use only locally sourced materials in its products and minimizes textile waste by making each product slightly different from others, rather than identical copies. 

Contour One Piece by JADE Swim 

Beach day, anyone? Over the years, I found nothing is more empowering than finding a bathing suit that really fits you. The perfect color. A great design. But in a world of $5 bikinis, these elements can be hard to come by. That’s why I’m so excited by this JADE suit. A great one-piece, this bathing suit features sexy exposure, not to mention a range of awesome colors to choose from. Although their sizing leaves something to be desired (they only go up to an XL) JADE’s suits are highly versatile—made for a swim, yoga class, or even to be worn as a body suit on a night out. Their creator, Brittany Kozerski, comes from a fashion styling background and put a great deal of thought into the design of her suits. On top of their versatility, the suits use “shape retention technology” to sculpt the body while built-in sun protection helps maintain color, wear after wear.  

Sicily Dress by Míe

One limb in this dress and I could die a happy woman. Look at the bow along the shoulder blades. The square neck. The open back. This dress is D-I-V-I-N-E! 

Míe is a company wholly dedicated to slow and more sustainable fashion. The company is based out of Lagos, Nigeria—aka Africa’s fashion capital. Their entire resort line, while pricey, is made from natural materials and biodegradable fibers. The designs for this season feature billowing sleeves, sleek cuts, and richly dyed fabrics. Although I couldn’t personally find any information on the company’s founder, their ‘About’ page does note a commitment to continually revising their processes for the benefit of the earth and their customers. 

It’s about time we talked vintage! You can find vintage Levis on almost every secondhand online marketplace. But when you buy vintage denim from Jane Dottie, your dollar goes even further. 

Tatyana Zhane started Jane Dottie only a year ago. As the daughter of a “extremely hard working single mother”, Tatyana not only started her business with a goal of empowering consumers through the secondhand market, she’s also made lifting up other women an essential part of her business model. Jane Dottie donates a portion of every sale to organizations that support women in need and allows shoppers to leave their own suggestions for worthy causes to donate.