Sustainable Gift Giving Guide 2019

There’s nothing I love more than giving gifts. I’m one of those people who prefers to give gifts rather than receive them. I just love to see the smile of a loved one light up when I give them something that is meaningful. However, a lot of people don’t love the holidays because of the emphasis on consumerism rather than time with friends and family. I don’t believe that gift-giving in itself is bad, but that they should be given with intention, selectivity, and consciousness in mind. The majority of products today are made using toxic chemicals, low-wage labor, and are not made with longevity in mind. Even if the product is made sustainably, it still takes a lot of resources to make because we are all still reliant on the fossil fuel industry whether we like it or not. Therefore, we should look for gifts that will be meaningful, useful, and last beyond next Christmas/Hanukkah. Here are my top picks for sustainable gift giving!

 

Alter-Eco Chocolate:

This certified B-Corp is sustainable from the inside-out. They use 100% organic and GMO-Free ingredients, invest in the well-being of farmers, source from small-scale farms, and piloted the world’s first compostable stand-up pouch. I also love how their co-ops practice dynamic agroforestry, which according to Alter-Eco, “…strives to mimic the natural evolution of the forest.” Agroforestry enriches the soil, supports a variety of plants, and manages pests without the usage of pesticides. My favorite product of theirs is the cherry and almond butter coconut clusters. If cherries or almonds are not your gift-receiver’s thing, you can also choose from other cluster flavors, truffles, and chocolate bars.

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Image is not my own and comes from the Alter Eco website.

Anything from Tamga Designs:

When you purchase something from Tamga, you are wearing a work of art. Not only are Tamga designs some of the most unique I’ve seen, but the company is also dedicated to using fashion as a force for social good. They pay their workers a living-wage and are very transparent on their website about the factories they use. Tamga uses sustainable materials such as Modal from sustainable beech-wood forests, Tencel that recycles 99.8% of water and solvents, GOTS certified Organic Cotton, and OEKO-Tex 100 dyes free from harmful chemicals. I would highly recommend a scarf or headband as a gift. Here’s a pic of me wearing the Nila Scarf Toba, as well as an up-close picture of the pattern.

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Ten Tree Clothing:

Do you want to shop and fight climate change at the same time? For every item you purchase from this company, ten trees are planted. Ten Tree has a goal to plant 1 billion trees that will sequester carbon from the atmosphere by 2030. They’re already well on their way by having planted 30 million trees in 8 different countries. I find that a lot of sustainable clothing brands just sell basic solid colored items, but Ten Tree clothes feature neat designs such as constellations and woodblocks. Best of all they use sustainable materials such as organic cotton, hemp, tencel and recycled polyester in their clothing. If purchasing an article of clothing is out of your budget, you can also purchase socks, hats, and towels from Ten Tree.

 

To-Go Ware Bamboo Cutlery:
If you want introduce your loved ones to the concept of zero-waste, this is a great gift to give. Not only does the bamboo look chique, but the set is lightweight and I love that To-Go Ware has a holder to put the utensils inside of. The zero-waste lifestyle can be overwhelming and this is a great first baby step for anyone interested in being more conscious of their waste. 

Honeybee Gardens Eyeshadow Palette:

Out of all of the eco-friendly eye-shadows I’ve tried, Honeybee Gardens is my favorite. They are by far the most pigmented and durable eyeshadows I’ve tried and don’t crease after an hour of wearing. Their palettes are my favorite because they choose colors that go together well. Honeybee Gardens is also one of the more affordable green-beauty brands, with the palette costing $27. This unfortunately can be the price of one eyeshadow color for many green beauty brands. I love how they work with the National Resources Stewardship Council to obtain ethically-sourced and child-free mica and regularly test for heavy metals in their cosmetics. The palette is also recyclable and refillable. I highly recommend the Canyon Sunset Eyeshadow Palette, which won the Delicious Living 2018 Beauty & Body Award.

Here’s a pic of me wearing the eyeshadows

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Pela Phone Case:

This is the world’s first and only compostable phone case. This phone case doesn’t look like someone stitched hemp and elephant poop together, but rather is elegant and sleek. They come in a plethora of colors with cute designs featuring honeybees, turtles, mandalas, as well as a more classic design. Pela phone cases are compatible with most cell phone brands such as the Iphone, Samsung, and Google. Pela uses renewable materials such as starch, natural fibers, and flax shive. When you’re done with your Pela case, you can either compost it or can send them your case through their Pela-Cycle program to be recycled again.

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This photo is not my own and comes from the Pela Case Website

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed:

Okay, so this book doesn’t have anything to do with environmental sustainability, but this has seriously been the best book I’ve read this year. This is a collection of letters that Cheryl Strayed received while working as “Dear Sugar” for The Rumpus and her responses to them. The problems that these people are dealing with are raw and real and have no easy solution, if any at all. I love Cheryl Strayed’s compassionate but yet direct advice that she gave. This book is like wearing a sweatshirt blanket on a cold day with a cup of hot chocolate in your hand, except in the form of a book. Tiny Beautiful Things is guaranteed to light anyone up and I would especially recommend giving it to those going through a difficult season in their life.

BuymeOnce Gift Card: Do you have a family member or friend who’s tricky to shop for? Instead of buying them a gift card to a big-box store, get them one for BuymeOnce. BuymeOnce is an online shop that fights against planned obsolescence by finding the highest quality products on the market. They sell a wide range of products including, but not limited to, clothing, technology, kitchen appliances, home décor, and so much more. Many of the products sold are made out of sustainable materials and even if the product you’re buying isn’t eco-friendly, it will at least be guaranteed to last for years to come.

The best part about eco-friendly gift-giving is that it’s an excellent way to introduce loved ones to conscious consumerism and for them to see that sustainably made products can be chique, cool, and fun.

What’s on your eco-conscious wish list? Let me know in the comment section.

 

How To Avoid The Fast Fashion Industry On A College Student Budget

Recently, a well-established women’s clothing store, The Limited, has closed their in-store businesses after 54 years. Why? Because consumers are showing a preference for cheap, fast fashion retailers that can keep up with yearly trends. The Limited was known for making multi-purpose, business casual clothing that never went out of style. This used to be a successful business model, but now a days, consumers prefer to purchase an abundance of clothing at cheap prices and then dispose it, once the trend is deemed unfashionable. While being able to purchase 3 dresses for $30 at Forever 21 might sound like a deal you can’t pass up, the consequences are detrimental for factory workers and unsustainable for the environment.

Factory workers are paid on average 3 dollars a day and given few legal protections. Many of these workers are exploited and forced to work 12+ hours a day. A sector of these factories don’t even given their workers a day off. One would like to think that this is a rarity or an exaggerated statement, but it’s a reality. Only 2% of suppliers pay their workers a living wage and the workers, often female, can barely support their families.  In addition to the fast fashion industry being toxic and dehumanizing for workers, there is currently 11 million tons of textile waste in landfills. This textile waste takes over 200+ years to biodegrade.

While I can’t control the fact that Donald Trump wants to get rid of the EPA, I can control what I choose to buy. I understand that buying from more ethical, sustainable companies is more expensive and difficult when you’re on a tight budget. As a college student, I can’t be the perfect sustainable/ethical fashionista 100% of the time, but I do believe that my awareness of the issue helps.  Here are some things I do to avoid the fast fashion industry when I can on a college student budget, that you can do too!

      1.) Shop at thrift, consignment, or vintage stores: Thrifting is one of the number one things we can do to be sustainable when it comes to clothing. Reusing clothing instead of throwing it into the landfill, is so important, as it extends the life-cycle of an object. It can be hard to sift through the racks, as some of them are filled with grandma sweaters that grandmas wouldn’t even want to wear. However,  you can also find some true gems at thrift/consignment shops. The prices are also extremely compatible with a college student budget, often surpassing discount fast fashion retailers. While the majority of the clothing in these thrift/consignment stores were probably made from conventional clothing stores, you are not supporting their fast fashion practices. Instead, these funds go to the store owners or charitable causes.

Vintage stores are also a wonderful place to shop! Not only are they fun to look at, but back in the day, clothing was made to last for multiple decades.  Even though vintage stores cost a bit more money than thrift/consignment stores, I find everything there to be of high quality . The shop owners, also, often know the story behind the item. For instance, I got this red hat at a vintage store in Providence, Rhode Island.

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The shop owner told me that this beaut’ was made in the 70’s and apparently had never been worn before. It is incredible to me that this stunning item would’ve spent its whole life-cycle never being worn. In today’s fast fashion industry, something like this would’ve been tossed in the landfill, but vintage stores give these items a second chance at life. I, 40 years later, am able to give this hat a story. An upside of wearing vintage clothing, you get a plethora of compliments as what you’re wearing is so unique. Whenever I wear this hat, I get, on average, about 3-5 compliments in a day.

     2.) Etsy: I pancake flipping love Etsy and browsing their website. For those of you who don’t know, Etsy is a website where independent businesses can sell their products, similar to eBay. I can literally spend hours looking at all of the eclectic, unique products on their website. I can’t say that I’ve shopped a lot on Etsy, but what I have gotten from their sellers has been superb. I  once, got an abalone ring that only cost $33 that was handmade by a woman in Florida. It is my favorite ring and I wear it all the time.

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If you’re curious, the hand-chain I got is from Ten Thousand Villages, a fair-trade boutique store.

Best of all, it isn’t some cheap piece of jewelry made of questionable materials and no one’s human rights got violated making it. Since they are made by independent sellers, many of the products can be customized, which you can’t get at your local Forever 21. .If you want something unique and hand-made, but reasonably priced, shop on Etsy!

     3.) The Sales Section of Sustainable/Ethical Fashion Websites: There are so many great sustainable/ethical fashion brands out there, but the prices are usually not friendly for the college student wallet. Look at the sales section of these websites and you’ll see lots of reasonably priced, beautiful clothing. For instance, I’ve had my eyes on this beautiful, eggplant, stripe skirt from Synergy Organic Clothing  for only $37 and this gorgeous bamboo aubergine colored tank top from Thought Clothing  for only $12.21 US Dollars. Also, if you can’t afford to shop for main pieces on Sustainable/Ethical Fashion Websites, buy items that tend to be less expensive like socks, scarves, hats, or underwear. For instance, you can get these adorable thigh high bamboo socks from Thought Clothing  for only $9.76 US Dollar or this beyond cute, hand-made panda hat from People Tree  for only $18.24. While you are still probably going to pay more for sustainable/ethical clothing on sale, what you will be getting will be of much higher quality and last you for years, while helping the Earth/your fellow citizens.

     4.) Buy Less: It is of my opinion, that it is better to buy less and instead, buy versatile items that won’t fall apart by the time the trend is over (items are usually designed to only be worn 7x). If you think about, the $100 dollars that you spend at Forever 21 for disposable clothing, that you’ll hate later on, you can also spend on a hand-made wool coat that will last you a lifetime. I am very picky in what I buy, and even if I do shop at a conventional store at the mall, I have to **love** and be head over heels for the item before I buy it. This year alone, I can count on one hand how many things I’ve purchased (albeit, I do have a wardrobe that I’ve built up over the years that is mostly from conventional retailers). Through selective shopping, most of what I’ve gotten has been under $100 dollars. A part of becoming more sustainable is adopting an attitude where if the object doesn’t add any lasting value to your life, you shouldn’t get it. It is easy to forget that stuff is just stuff. That is why I think it is so important to feel a positive connection to the stories behind these objects. I, personally, feel a lot more connected to a scarf from a company who supports women by paying them a living wage, while also giving them other benefits (education, healthcare, etc.), than a scarf that was made in a sweatshop by an abused worker. That is why I’d rather shop less, but more sustainably, rather than having a new outfit to wear everyday.

I get that it is isn’t always possible to shop sustainably/ethically 100% of the time, especially if you’re a college student or are struggling to make ends meet. It is hard when you want to do the right thing, but don’t always have the funds to do so.  In my opinion, though, it is most important to be aware of the problems with the clothes we wear, and to help if you can. Even if only 20% of your wardrobe is sustainable and ethical, that is certainly something. Every little bit helps and matters, and it is vital to keep that in mind.

I’m curious, what do you guys do to shop sustainably/ethically in an affordable way? Let me know in the comments down below!

Interesting Articles/Sources: 

The Limited is closing all of its 250 stores

The True Cost of Fast Fashion

Analysis: Fast fashion comes at a steep price for the environment

 

Best,

Alexandra