Deuter Packs

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img_6361As a newly engaged couple, we were giddy and ecstatic. We carefully began our check list for the wedding, which included setting up a gift registry. Unlike most engaged couples, our situation was quite unique: we would be moving across the world two weeks after saying I do. We know, we know: what!?  Obviously, classic registry gifts were completely out of the question. We tearfully said goodbye to the dream of sipping soy lattes and strolling hand and hand through department stores with a scanner gun. Kidding, only kidding! Instead of the typical route, we brainstormed, researched, and shopped around, trying to think of what we might need… ehem…or rather, what we could actually bring on our exciting adventure to South Korea.

One of our gift list items was a pair of quality, thoughtfully made trekking backpacks. We knew these would not only be helpful in the moving process, but hopefully be put to good use considering we would be living in a new country. Neither of us has been backpacking through the mountains or across Europe, but we hope to someday. In the meantime, we’ve used our packs for small weekend getaways such as camping with friends on Muuido and hiking at Seoraksan National Park. Highly recommend visiting both if you find yourself in South Korea!img_6360img_6362img_6359Deuter is a German company who makes authentic, quality gear. We actually went into a local REI in Seattle to select the right size for each of us. We love the fold over top pouch for easy to grab essentials and the lower compartment that can quickly unzip into the main cavern to increase the size of your pack if needed. The small side pockets, hitting right at the hip, were perfect for our passports and phones when we traveled to Korea. Bonus: these trekking packs easily fit in the overhead bin when flying (backpacking adventure abroad, anyone?)

Best of all: each of Deuter’s products are manufactured in a transparent way. In fact, they are members of the Fair Wear Foundation, “an independent, non-profit organisation that works to improve conditions for workers in garment factories.” This means Deuter’s factories are regularly screened and audited to ensure fair conditions, hours, and pay for their workers.  On the FWF website, Deuter was scored in the performance category leader, which is the highest rating category a brand can receive from FWF. As noted on the organization’s website:

“Deuter Sport meets most of FWFs management system requirements and goes beyond several of them. Deuter has 97% of its supply chain under monitoring meeting the 90+% threshold required for members after their third year of membership. Deuter has a stable, long-term relationships with all it’s suppliers as well as significant leverage, which allows them to work effectively on improving working conditions. While continuous efforts are still needed, the company has strong systems in place to prevent and remediate excessive overtime. It has made considerable efforts to ensure subcontractors are part of its monitoring. Deuter received one complaint in its last financial year, which was handled according to FWF’s complaint procedure. Preventive steps were implemented” (Read the full report here).

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 Aircontact 50 + 10 SL | Futura Vario 45 + 10 SL

We acknowledge that Deuter still has room for growth to become a completely ethical brand, but we were encouraged to see a larger company making an active effort to monitor + improve their systems as they move toward full transparency. If you happen to be piecing together a backpacking excursion in the near future or just need the perfect gift for the adventurer in your life, we encourage you to check out Deuter’s Trekking Backpacks and other quality equipment!

The Chelsea Boot

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img_4309-copyWhen it comes to shoe shopping, I am a minimalist. Truthfully, I’m not an intentional shoe minimalist. I just don’t own a whole lot of footwear, and the pairs I do have are usually worn to the sole. Boots have consistently been a  wardrobe essential for me. I typically utilize them year round and love the age and patina that appears after countless wears. When it came time to invest in ethically made black boots, I knew just the style I desired: The Chelsea Boot.

“Close-fitting, ankle-high boots with an elastic side panel. They often have a loop or tab of fabric on the back of the boot, enabling the boot to be pulled on. The boot dates back to the Victorian era, when it was worn by both men and women. Chelsea boots and some of its variants were considered an iconic element of the 1960’s in Britain, particularly the mod scene.”

This classic, British inspired shape easily pairs with various looks: a silky frock, rugged denim, a cropped trouser… you get my point. I currently own a pair of camel colored leather boots that have easily seen over 150 wears in their two year lifespan within my closet. As I approached the hunt for the perfect pair of black boots, I kept in mind a miniature check list to ensure I didn’t make an impulsive buy based on sale pricing. First, I sought an ethically made, simple and sophisticated design. Next, I desired something comfortable enough for our daily walks too and from work. Finally, I needed a boot that would be durable enough to last me hundreds of wears (yes, hundreds).

After much research and deliberation, I settled on Matt and Nat Joliette Boots in black. What I love about them? They are made responsibly. Not only are these boots cruelty-free, but they consistently use recycled nylons, corks, and rubber in their designs, and even craft their linings out of 100% recycled bottles. Additionally, the boots have a slightly pointed toe bed, giving off a more sophisticated look. They are wonderfully comfortable (though, I will admit, this took several wears to break them in!)

“Building personal relationships with each of our factories is important to us. We regularly visit diligently each factory and make it a point to build strong bonds with the owners; they too are a part of the Matt & Nat family. We make sure that while we provide you with a quality product, the conditions of the workers developing it are up to par with our standards. One of our factories operates by the SA8000 standard, which ensures quality work conditions for all. We hope to make the latter a bigger part of our production, in the future.”

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What I don’t love? Because these boots are vegan “leather,” their wear and creasing is not what I expected. I wish they held a sturdier shape, but I realize this is the natural creasing of the unique material. Would I buy them again? Actually, I already have my eyes on the exact same boots in coffee. They truly go with any look I throw together and this versatility is a necessity in my lean closet. Whether or not the boots I selected are a good fit for your style, here are the boots I chose plus three other strong (and ethically made) contenders that remain beautiful wardrobe essentials.

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Matt & Nat | Joliette Boots in Black | On Sale $90

 With a slightly pointed toe, soft heel, and deeply set elastic side panel, this pair of Joliette Boots by Matt & Nat give an updated feel to the classic Chelsea boot. Made of vegan “leather,” these boots are cruelty-free and even incorporate recycled materials, such as cork, rubber, and bottles into their design. Always sweatshop-labor free, these boots are a wardrobe staple that will go with any outfit and will easily last you seasons. They are a worthy investment for the minimalist ethical wardrobe.

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Everlane  | The Modern Chelsea Boot in Black | $235

Everlane consistently knocks it out of the park with their clean, modern designs. This shoe is no exception. If you desire the Chelsea Boot design with a modern loafer twist, these 100% full-grain Italian leather boots are just what you need. Thoughtfully crafted in Brescia, Italy, you can be assured these boots were made ethically and that those who created your pair were paid a fair wage. Want to learn more? Take a look at the factory for yourself!
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Will’s Vegan Shoes | The Chelsea Boot in Black | $98

At the most affordable price point, this simple yet strong design remains a beautiful option for the most classic Chelsea Boot look. Though I don’t own a pair myself, all the reviews of this shoe ensured comfort as one of the top qualities loved about this boot. Made of burnished Italian faux leather, these boots are water resistant, cruelty-free, breathable, and ethically made in Portugal. Bonus: Will’s Vegan Shoes offers free international shipping on your first order. Truly a wonderful find, especially on a budget! 
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Alice & Whittles | Minimalist Black Ankle Rain Boot | $160

Alright, alright, I admit, these aren’t true Chelsea boots in style. But wouldn’t you agree they boast a remarkably similar silhouette? If you’re still not sold, consider the fact that these boots are fully waterproof! Alice & Whittles rain boots are each handmade using Sri Lankan fair-trade rubber. As far as their website discloses, this company supports fair labor standards, ethical manufacturing practices, and worker empowerment. If you happen to live in a endlessly damp environment, these Chelsea-esc beauties could be the best fit for you! 
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Effortless Denim

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Boyfriend jeans. Mom jeans. Worn and comfortable. High waisted, straight leg, loose fitting. We’ve heard it all. This effortless look feels nostalgic and seems to always pair best with a crisp, white tee. I’m a huge fan of this style, but the truth is, I’ve been fearful to try it out. 

I’ve kept my eye on this look for several months now, perpetually uncertain if I could pull it off. Then I found a pair of vintage, well worn Levi’s 501s and my questioning was all over. Whether or not I could actually pull off this look, I snagged my secondhand treasure for $35 and ventured home to style with a perma-grin of satisfaction slapped across my face.Processed with VSCO with c1 preseteffortless-denim-collageProcessed with VSCO with c1 presetIMG_4125.JPG

If curiosity with worn, effortless denim has been swirling around in your mind,  I’ve carefully gathered four ethical options for a reasonable investment.

The Selection
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mud-jeans-cropped-mimi-sun-stone-frontMud Jeans | Cropped Mimi in Sun Stone | $100

You can rent a car, you can rent an apartment, you can even rent your wedding dress. But did you know you can lease a pair of jeans? I know, right!?  First question, how does this even work? After paying a one time membership fee of $20, Mud Jeans allows you to select the perfect pair of jeans for you. You pay only $8 a month to lease your jeans. After the year is up, they are yours to keep if you love ’em! Ready for a new pair? Send back your old jeans, check out updated options, and continue leasing a brand new style. What happens to your returned pair? Well, they’re recycled and re-crafted (Watch the process here!) Ethically manufactured in Tunisia, these jeans are the perfect option for the minimalist!

125010251-back-grid Levi’s | 501 Selvedge Jeans for Women in Tidewater | $158

By joining the Better Cotton Initiative, Levi’s Water<Less denim line is making a powerful impact on the environment. While a typical pair of jeans requires 42 liters of water to give it the well worn look, Levi’s Water<Less line uses as little as 1.5 liters of water for some of their pairs. Levi’s is on a mission to reduce chemical use and ensure that water leaves their garment warehouse cleaner than when it came in. Levi’s is a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and has claimed, “Our goal is to be the most sustainable apparel company in the world.” Though I feel Levi’s still has a long ways to go until they fully embody their desire for radical transparency, I am encouraged to see this classic brand moving in a unique direction!

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DSTLD | Ripped Mom Jeans in Light Vintage | $85

As mentioned in a previous post, I’m a big fan of DSTLD’s denim line. With a vast selection of washes and styles,  this brand is certainly one to keep an eye on. DSTLD is passionate about producing 100% sweat-shop free apparel, eco-friendly + sustainable fabrics, and offering affordable pricing. They remain an online-only retailer with no middlemen, meaning you get the savings! Currently, their denim line starts at $75, not exceeding $105. If you are interested in trying out the effortless denim look, but are restricted by budget (hello, aren’t we all!?), these are a wise option for you.

oscarblack_15_of_10_Imogene + Willie | Catherine Abilene High Rise Trouser | $295

Alright, I had to end this post with one gorgeous pair of denim. I admit, they are well of my personal price range.  If you can afford more expensive treasures,  Imogene + Willie is a worthy, long term  investment. These trousers are a timeless silhouette, easily paired with a fitted tee or dressed up with a silk blouse and wedges.  Imogene + Willie takes pride in ethical production, as each pair of jeans is patterned, cut, and sewn in the USA. For those of you with means to curate an ethical wardrobe at a higher price point, this classic pair of denim will last you seasons and stir curiosity.

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Freedom to experiment with looks that simultaneously inspire and intimidate you is something I’ve been contemplating lately. I’m learning to release the pressure to fit a particular mold, defining my own favored aesthetics, and am embracing the joy that follows!Processed with VSCO with c1 presetFor me, experimenting with my personal style is always intertwined with a conviction to shop ethically. If you find yourself on a similar journey, I hope you stick around. Perhaps you’ll find some questions answered, some brands to return to, and a little encouragement towards a more ethical wardrobe!

Considering Color: Your Palette

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img_4314-copyI’m curious: What is your thought process when you go shopping? The reason I ask is because, for a while now, I have never had much of a plan when it came to buying new pieces. Of course, I would consider ethical standards and closet needs, but when it came to aesthetics, I never had any ground rules. If I like the print, the color, the shape, how it fits me… great! It’s a winner!

In other words, my closet has always had many beautiful pieces, but lacked cohesiveness. When it comes to getting dressed everyday, this poses a sharp dilemma: you have a wide selection of choices that seem to stand out when standing alone. A plethora of patterns and colors fighting for attention make getting dressed in the morning a frustrating event.

img_4315In recent months, I have made it a point to add more basics into my wardrobe, pieces that can easily mix and match with one another. I am working toward not just a more ethical closet, but a thoughtful, curated one as well.

As I sifted through my selection of pieces (my wardrobe is actually quite small), I noticed a color theme among my favorite garments. I decided to ponder these colors and cultivate a palette that I can springboard from when styling outfits or shopping.

My Palette
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Shades I find myself consistently drawn to are classic black and white. I am always gawking over a creative and busy, dark and light print. For me, these shades set the foundation of my wardrobe and I spread outward from there. My other essential? Denim. I love denim! Jean jacket, denim jumper, high-waisted, distressed, you name it. It’s a staple in my closet.

Beyond these foundational shades, I have noticed my love of all things camel, terracotta, rust, bright olive, amber green, blush, and peach. Whenever I scroll through online shops, these are the hues that immediately catch my eye.color-palette-inspo
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img_4313-copyWhen you consider that ethically made pieces cost more, you don’t want to purchase a piece that won’t last you long term. Was it really worth the investment? It’s not just fast fashion: you can shop impulsively via ethical brand sales, too.

Rather than making rash decisions or burying your closet in stand alone items, I encourage you to consider the cohesiveness of your closet. Do you have foundational basics that can easily pair with statement garments? Do you feel content with or even excited about the combinations you’ve styled? If putting together outfits has been discouraging you lately, perhaps discovering your palette is the solution to fresh style and an easier morning routine! Why not give it a try?

The Barely Bra: Patagonia

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img_4317Honesty alert: I am not consistent with working out. This summer, I miraculously jumped into a regular exercise routine of running + Pilates several days a week, while continuing to eat vegan. Once fall rolled around and I attempted to pumpkin spice everything in my life, my consistent workout routine vanished and I’ve slid into the realm of vegetarian.

The cliche is to dive into a healthy lifestyle come January 1st; you know, once all the holidays (parties, wine, and trays of baked cookies) are over. As predictable as a healthy New Year’s resolution may seem, I have to admit that there is indeed a fresh spark of motivation all around this time of year. If you’re considering cultivating a more healthy lifestyle in 2 0 1 7, you’ll likely need some comfortable exercise attire.

Several months ago, I realized my old sports bra I’d been wearing for longer than I’d like to admit (washing between workouts, of course!) was starting to bleed color. Yikes. I’m learning to shift my mindset to one of replacing garments only as needed, so when an older item has truly seen better days, it’s a perfect opportunity to select an ethically made alternative!
img_4318I chose to purchase the Patagonia Barely Bra in Rosewater. Now, let me be frank: I am small chested. I don’t require ample support and my exercise activity is low intensity. If you are my opposite in either of these areas, this bra may not be the right for you. However, if you’re looking for an ethically made, comfortable, and and gosh darn beautiful bra that you can wear for Pilates or simply layered under a tee, I think you’ll fancy this piece.
img_4320In more depth, Patagonia as a brand is a forerunner in the movement toward ethical clothing and is a founding member of the Fair Labor Association.

“Our FLA® accreditation provides our customers with an extra layer of assurance and transparency, and provides us with an objective party perspective that enables us to evaluate where we are doing well and where we need to improve.”

Patagonia’s supplier workplace code of conduct ensures factories free of child labor, forced labor, and harassment. It also establishes fair wages, ethical working hours, and health and safety for employees of each factory, as well as traceability of material sourcing.
img_4319img_4316If health and wellness are on your agenda this New Year, I applaud you! I, too, desire to pursue a consistent, holistic healthy lifestyle in the months ahead (baby steps, right?) If you need a wee bit of encouragement to get started, perhaps replacing worn athletic gear with fresh, ethically made options will inspire new goals and help you achieve them!

Note: this post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. I desired to support this company financially with my purchase. 

A Christmas Morning Recipe: Orange, Cranberry, Ginger Pancakes & Soy Chai Lattes

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well, at least, it’s certainly my favorite season. I love the warmth and lightness of December. Crisp, chill winds chase you inside for a cup of something warm. Long, late night talks seem natural, even easier nowadays.  With Christmas morning only a week away, you may be pondering what it will look like. Perhaps, it will be filled with firsts? Newlyweds, new babes, new housemates, new walks of life. Maybe you’re looking for some new traditions to make your Christmas feel cozy, unique, or just normal.

Every year on Christmas morning, my family would make cinnamon rolls. Most years, they came out of a pop-able can (hello, dough boy!) In recent years, my mom would make them from scratch. But, I could always guarantee that a hot, gooey cinnamon roll would be next in line after opening a few gifts.

Now that Nick and I live far away and won’t be celebrating Christmas morning in the comfort of a home filled with family, I figured it was time to start up some of our own traditions! Or, at least, trial and error some traditions to see if they might stick around.

As a couple, we are on a journey of learning to live more ethically. We want to do our best to purchase clothing and products that we know have been made and sourced responsibly. One way we have been practically doing this is by switching up a few routine pantry purchases. We are trying to only buy fair trade coffee, tea, sugar, and chocolate in our home. This is a small step, but it felt like a goal that was achievable. Over time, we hope that even the smallest choices we make now will build into a fully ethical lifestyle someday.

When it came to thinking of a new Christmas morning tradition for our little family, breakfast seemed like the natural place to start. I put together two simple Christmas morning recipes. Both are ridiculously easy to prepare, warming, and perfectly sweet.

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2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teas. salt
1/2 teas. baking soda
3 tbsp. powdered ginger
2 eggs
1/2 teas. lemon juice
1/2 cup fair trade raw cane sugar
3/4 cup orange juice
1 cup soy milk
1 cup dried cranberries

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients. Pour wet ingredients into the dry bowl, whisk until smooth. Add dried cranberries and heat the griddle. Cook over oil or butter until golden brown. Top with maple syrup and enjoy!

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10 Zhena’s fair trade coconut chai tea sachets
1/2 cup fair trade raw cane sugar
4 cups boiling water
2 cups soy milk

Allow tea sachets to steep in boiling water for around 10 minutes. Remove sachets. Add raw sugar and let boil for another 10 minutes, or so, until liquid slightly thickens into a syrup. In a separate pot,  gently heat soy milk over stove until warmed and creamy. Pour 1 cup tea base + 1/2 cup soy milk into mugs. Give it a simple stir and enjoy!
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Merry Christmas!

His & Hers: Badger Balm Stocking Stuffers

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img_2654Christmas is hands down my favorite holiday of the year! As busy as life may feel around you, there’s a peace in the air. Seeing greenery and twinkling decor fill shop windows and living rooms brings a warmth I’ve missed for the past eleven months. I will admit, with all this holiday cheer comes the inevitable pressure to give, give, give that perfect gift. Overwhelmed? Don’t fret. Let’s slow down and start somewhere simple: stocking stuffers!

On a recent pantry essentials order, I came across Badger Balm: an all natural, down to earth company with a plethora of beautiful products to try. They are a small, family owned company located and manufacturing products honestly in Gilsum, New Hampshire. Badger Balm offers a wide selection of products, many of which are made with organic and Fair Trade cocoa butter, sourced ethically from Peru. Their clear and powerful mission speaks volumes about this company’s values:

“To create fabulously pure and effective products of the highest natural quality, based on simplicity and thoughtful preparation, with the intention to protect, soothe and heal. To run a business that is fun, fair and profitable; where money is fuel, not a goal; and where our vision for a healthier world finds expression through the way we work and through the way we treat each other and the people we serve” (learn more here!)

Great selection of products? Check. Incredible mission as a company? Check. Our choices?

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Recently, I was on the hunt for an ethically made, simple but rich lip color for the cozy, cold days ahead. Winter comes quickly and is bitterly cold in South Korea, so I knew I needed something that could provide ample moister as well as gorgeous color. I selected Badger Balm’s Lip Tint in Garnet. At first, the color was more sheer than I expected and desired. However, after applying another few layers, I loved the result! A natural, buildable color that compliments my skin tone and keeps my lips protected.

Beyond the beautiful look the tint provides, you can be assured that the ingredients are honest and pure. Each of Badger Balm’s lip tints are filled with moisturizing certified organic ingredients including extra virgin olive oil, soothing Aloe vera, and antioxidant-rich Fair Trade certified cocoa butter (more information on ingredients here). Each tint is also fragrance free and Leaping Bunny Standard certified.
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A few months ago, my husband mentioned his hair gel was running low. He had been using a generic brand we found here in Korea: definitely not all natural, nor ethically made. We’re learning, okay!?  🙂 When the last of his gel was gone, I jumped at the opportunity to find a more ethical option. Though Badger Balm’s Hair Pomade was significantly more expensive than the brand we previously purchased, I knew the price reflected the quality. Quality over quantity is a phrase we are trying to mold into a lifestyle around here.

As far as my husband tells me, this pomade meets his needs and smells fantastic. I can fully attest to this truth: think orange creamsicle in the best way possible. This pomade gives a natural looking, light weight hold without added greasiness. Additionally, this product is certified organic and 100% natural. I will note: if you’re man likes a more sturdy, hard holding gel, this is probably not the right product for him.  
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Lip Tint in Garnet $6 | Medium Hold Hair Pomade $16

If you’ve been racing the clock to finish your Christmas shopping or are just looking for a few last minute stocking stuffers, I highly recommend perusing Badger Balm’s natural & organic products.
In case you were curious, this post is not sponsored. I have personally purchased both of these products. All opinions are my own.