Socially Responsible Investing: Proxy Voting

Socially Responsible Investing: Proxy Voting

Last week I received proxy voting materials in the mail for one of the funds my 401k is invested in. If you’re like me, when you get a big booklet filled with fine print about finance, you’re not too excited to read it. However, I knew that a proxy statement deserves attention, because proxy voting is one of the ways shareholders can have a direct impact on how their invested money is used.

What is a proxy statement, you ask? It’s a booklet containing various proposals for shareholders to vote on, and it comes with a card that allows you to cast your vote. There were three proposals on my proxy card (with my initial reactions):

  1. Elect a board of trustees for the fund (“Sure!”)
  2. Change the focus of the fund from financial investments to government investments (“Why not?”)
  3. Require the board to institute procedures to prevent holding investments in companies that substantially contribute to genocide or crimes against humanity (“This is what I expect you do be doing anyway, so yes!”)

Obviously the last proposal caught my attention. It was submitted by a group of concerned shareholders, and it’s completely in the spirit of what socially responsible investing is about. In several places in the proxy statement and on the card itself, the company listed the existing board’s recommendations for how shareholders should vote. I found it discouraging (but not surprising) is that the board recommended voting against the “don’t fund genocide” proposal.

Proxy statement booklet and voting card

The proxy statement booklet and voting card, featuring the prominent recommendation to vote AGAINST the “don’t fund genocide” proposal.

The proxy statement contained the board’s justification for its recommendations. I approached it with an open mind, hoping they at least had a good reason for opposing the proposal, but their justification was weak. They basically said that the proposal would limit what the fund can invest in (duh), that they already comply with investment sanctions that the U.S. government places on other countries, and that shareholders can take their money elsewhere if they have a problem with how the fund is managed.

I took issue with their justification because:

  1. Taking a few companies off the huge list of potential investments is not going to hinder the fund’s performance.
  2. Sanctions are incredibly political. The U.S. government could avoid putting sanctions on a problematic government for a myriad of reasons. Whether it’s illegal to invest in a company controlled by a certain government shouldn’t be your only criteria for determining if that’s what your shareholders would want you to do.
  3. I don’t actually have the option of easily putting this money elsewhere. This fund is a holding fund where my money goes to sit until I use it to buy the socially responsible funds I like. I made no active choice to use this fund and could only avoid it by sending my money straight to conventional funds (no thanks) or by not using my company’s 401k.

They didn’t even talk about whether adding new verification procedures would be inefficient or unreliable, which in my opinion would have been way more legitimate concerns than the arguments they did use. Their whole justification was only three short paragraphs. Hey, if you’re not going to go to the effort of writing a convincing rebuttal, I’m going to vote for the thing that sounds humane. I put an emphatic X voting for the procedures to avoid investing in genocide.

If you’ve received a proxy statement and are putting off looking at it, here are a couple of factoids from my experience to encourage you (your situation may vary based on what funds you’re voting on and how many proposals they have):

  • The proxy statement booklet I got was written in very easy-to-understand language. It looked daunting, but it wasn’t hard to read.
  • It only took me about 30-45 minutes to read and fully understand all of the proposals. If I had just focused on the one I really cared about, it would have taken 10 minutes tops. (I read all of them to make sure they weren’t sneaking anything in, so if you’re suspicious like me, set aside a little time.)

There’s a reason companies are required to have shareholders vote on certain things. It’s so you get a voice in how your money is managed! Using your voice is key to holding companies accountable and showing them you care more about just the bottom line.

The unfortunate truth is that the majority of shareholders will not take the time to read the proxy statement and will blindly vote in line with the recommendations printed on the card. But even if the “don’t fund genocide” proposal doesn’t pass, I at least want to show my financial company that someone is paying attention. One lesson learned from the financial crisis is that financial firms don’t do any due diligence they aren’t legally required to do. Shareholders can help hold companies accountable on areas that regulations don’t cover, and proxy voting is one way to do that.

Learn more about the anti-genocide shareholder campaign at Investors Against Genocide.

Happy Fair Trade Birthday to Me!

In my family, we play it fast and loose when it comes to when birthdays are celebrated. “Within a six week period of the actual date?” we collectively ask. “Close enough!” So I don’t feel behind at all posting a recap of my fair trade birthday gifts only a month after I received them (at the celebration that was two weeks after my actual birthday).

I was my mother’s daughter this year and bought pretty much all of my presents for myself, wrapped them all, then sneakily accepted cash before we all ooohed and aaahed over my selections.

Dress: Liz Alig, made fairly in India

Julia wearing Regina Dress from Liz Alig

This dress is THE BEST. Pockets, cute color, work-appropriate length, wide straps (it’s sleeveless), and twirly! It’s on wicked sale and Liz Alig makes small quantities so you should probably buy one before they’re all gone. (This is not even a paid endorsement, I just love it this much.)

Scarf: Handmade Expressions via Global Gifts, made fairly in India

Necklace: Global Gifts, made fairly in India

Teal-to-white ombre scarf and coral beaded necklace

I’m wearing this scarf right now while I blog!

Basket: SERRV via Global Gifts, made fairly in Ghana

Basket with leather handles holding blankets

I had previously been keeping my throw blankets in a plastic tub. Major upgrade. I love the leather handle!

I’ve never had a basket as part of my decor before, but now that I have one, I can see myself becoming a basket lady. They look so much cooler than bins, and there’s no shortage of fair trade basket options, so I could collect them guilt-free! Bwahaha! (I can see the look of horror on my interior decorator sister’s face. Don’t worry, Paige, I don’t need any more storage… for now…)

Have you treated yourself to any new fair trade items lately? Does your family also celebrate birthdays willy-nilly? How many baskets is too many?

Handkerchiefs: An Eco Throwback

Handkerchiefs: An Eco Throwback over photo of two hankies

Handkerchiefs have never really been a thing during my lifetime. My experience with them is pretty much limited to what I’ve seen in historical dramas and Looney Tunes, and my vague understanding of hankies is that they’re non-disposable Kleenex, which seems kind of icky.

However, as people (including me) look to reduce their use of disposable paper products, handkerchiefs are making a comeback. I’m completely in favor of hankies in terms of reducing waste, but given my recent perception of handkerchiefs as basically snot rags, I was skeptical of their practicality and hygiene.

I reached out to Marion Poirier, co-founder and CEO of Montreal-based handkerchief company TSHU, with my questions about how well handkerchiefs can really work on an everyday basis.

Fair for All: What are some of the ways to use a handkerchief?

Marion Poirier: There are many different ways to use a handkerchief and funnily enough, lots of them don’t include blowing or wiping one’s nose!

A handkerchief is a very useful accessory to carry on one at all times and can come in handy in various situations. For instance, there is nothing like a soft, absorbent cotton handkerchief to wipe the sweat off one’s brow after an energetic workout, a bike ride or simply to deal with the heat or excessive sweating due to anxiety.

It’s also a great fix for oily hands after digging into finger food or wiping your child’s cheeks after a snack. Bearded and mustachioed men also find our hankies quite useful after enjoying a beverage! Crying or emotion can also be dealt with in style. Wiping your screen or your glasses with a handkerchief is also appropriate. Some of our clients even groom their pets with the handkerchiefs. And, for practical reasons, there is nothing like a cotton handkerchief to really blow your nose when practicing outdoor winter sports – without ending up with little debris of wet paper-tissues in your pockets.

Teal, yellow and gray geometric patterned handkerchief

Are handkerchiefs a practical solution for people with serious nasal congestion, or are they only for those with a dainty nose drip?

Cotton handkerchiefs are definitely appropriate for real use! They are truly fantastic for people who suffer from seasonal allergies or severe colds as their noses are frequently irritated and their skin more sensitive due to excessive blowing. After all, hankies are way softer and more absorbent then regular paper tissues!

However one chooses to use their handkerchief is absolutely personal though. The idea is to try it and see what works for you! If germs are a concern for you, the same rules as using paper tissues apply: wash your hands often! And, for extra precaution, leave your handkerchief in our practical case (Casey) for hygiene and transport, wash both the handkerchief and case often and/or have a few hankies in stock as backup.

Personally, I can go through 5 or 6 two-ply hankies in a day when sick, or one every day or second day when healthy. I’ve seen people wash their hankies once a week though (or even less!) – so everything is a question of comfort and use!

How do you wash a handkerchief? If you use it to blow your nose, does it make your other laundry gross?

Caring for your handkerchief is extremely simple. Simply toss it in the machine with your laundry – cold water preferably, and lay flat or hang to dry. Bonus points for drying in the sun, as the sun naturally fades stains!

As per “contamination” with the rest of your laundry – again it’s a question of comfort. Most parents will agree that their loads have seen worse things than handkerchiefs…

Several handkerchiefs hanging on an outdoor clothesline

How do you handle carrying around a dirty or wet handkerchief all day if you happen to use it early in the day?

How many times you use one handkerchief is really up to you! There are several tricks to get the most out of your hanky. For instance, you can fold it where it’s been used and move on to another section, piece by piece. The surprising thing about cotton handkerchiefs is that it “magically” dries in your pocket. So, the folded part of the hanky you were using this morning may be dry by late afternoon, the water having evaporated! If it’s beyond re-using, you can also use our little case to store your dirty handkerchief. It’s always good to have a backup handkerchief, too. There’s an old saying that I like to quote: “Always carry two handkerchiefs: one for show and one for blow.”

What are the differences between a handkerchief, a pocket square and a cloth napkin?

A handkerchief is usually made out of cotton and is particularly useful when soft and absorbent. A pocket square is often made from more delicate materials such as silk and wool and boast a hand rolled edge, which makes them more decorative than practical. Cloth napkins are usually way larger in size than handkerchiefs or pocket squares and are sometimes made with linen, which is not as soft on the nose.

Assortment of colorful handkerchiefs

Do you carry multiple handkerchiefs, or is one usually enough?

Most people carry one or two (one for show, one for blow). I personally like to have at least one on me and I leave some everywhere for emergencies (the car, the office, my laptop case, in the pocket of the jacket I use to run, etc.).

Since starting to use handkerchiefs, how has your life improved?

In many ways! With three kids in the house, we waste considerably less. We’ve also converted to cloth napkins so we basically don’t use paper tissues or towels at all anymore.

Aside from the environmental impact, I’ve absolutely converted to the habit and don’t find the use of paper tissues to be agreeable any more. In comparison, they are way too thin & fragile and not as soft as our cotton handkerchiefs!

I’ve also found that having a TSHU on you is incredibly practical for every day life and use my handkerchiefs to deal with the unexpected frequently. I’m always proud to pull out a beautiful, colourful hanky to save a situation or politely refuse paper napkins at a deli when ordering a sandwich!

___

Marion sent me two TSHU hankies to try out: the one-ply polka-dotted Henri and the two-ply organic Dwight. TSHU handkerchiefs are handmade in Montreal, and the company plants a tree for each handkerchief adopted (TSHU calls each purchase an adoption—cute!).

Two TSHU handkerchiefs in cardboard sleeve packaging

As a cloth napkin user, I like the idea of a pseudo-napkin I can take with me anywhere. And with the weather (hopefully) warming up soon, it will be nice to have something to wipe the sweat off my face with after a run or a particularly energetic swing dance. I plan to use the hankies for at least 30 days, then I’ll report back about the practical ins and outs.

Have you ever used a cloth handkerchief? What was your experience?

Disclaimer: TSHU provided me two free handkerchiefs to review in a future post.

Iceland Iceland Baby

I just got back from a trip to Iceland and my brain is full of beautiful sights like these!

Valley with stream and distant mountains

Mountain in morning sunlight

Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland

Julia and friend with four wheeler

My travel buddy Valerie and I agreed that four-wheeling in Iceland is the best thing we have ever done, ever.

I’ll be back next week with a normal post after I catch up and slowly ease out of my mountain dream state.

Do You Pity Shop?

This post was originally published by Alden Wicker on EcoCult. I read it and said “Yes, this is right on the money!” It’s got an excellent perspective on what it means to shop consciously. Enjoy!

Row of high heels at a vintage marketIt’s a thin, blurry line between shopping consciously, and pity shopping.

I bet if you’re reading this blog, you’ve pity shopped before. That Fair Trade bracelet that you never wear. The ill-fitting charity t-shirt. The expensive vegan handbag that fell apart after four months.

Actually, I think everyone has pity shopped, starting with the first time you bought a sorry looking cupcake at a bake sale that was raising money for a good cause. You ruined your diet, and it didn’t even taste that good, but you wanted to help out. Not a huge deal, really, that one cupcake.

But when you get into the world of sustainable and ethical consumption, pity shopping becomes a big, expensive problem. I’m an enthusiastic proponent of buying as sustainably and ethically as possible. My every purchase is carefully considered, and I spend an inordinate amount of time fretting over how to avoid buying something that is manufactured in China, or made from toxic ingredients. I also get very excited when I see a sustainable fashion item.

Buying an eco-friendly item that you don’t need or want is like smearing peanut butter on a celery stick and thinking the calories balance each other out. News flash: It still possesses calories.

It’s true that you can get a lot of things in the sustainable version, whether it’s made with natural materials, benefits artisans in a developing country, or is just pre-worn. But you can’t get everything that way.

And that is where I trip up. Over the past five years, I have found myself in possession of a whole suitcase worth of pity purchases, including unflattering clothing, poorly constructed accessories, and ineffective beauty products, just because they were sustainable in some way! I would never have paid money for it, had I not been blinded by its ethical qualities. I would have looked at it and thought, “Meh, not for me.” Instead, I plunked down my credit card and brought it home.

Then it sat in my closet, barely used, until I finally faced the truth that I’m just never going to wear it. So I regretfully take it to the consignment store or Goodwill. Even worse is when I get the eco-friendly version, decide I hate it, get rid of it, and wind up getting the conventional version after all!

Don’t be fooled: Pity purchasing is not sustainable. If you purchase a sustainable item, and then never use it, you are being wasteful. That sustainable item is not zero impact, it’s just less impact than the conventional item. It had to be transported to you somehow. Electricity was involved in its manufacture. The fabric is organic, but the zipper is not.

Feeling altruistic about buying an eco-friendly item that you don’t need or want is like smearing peanut butter on a celery stick and thinking the calories balance each other out. Yes, it’s healthier than a peanut butter fudge brownie. But it still possesses calories.

The first guideline for living sustainably is simply consuming less. Buying the sustainable version is way down on the list, after borrowing it, making it, and buying it used.

Don’t get me wrong. I wholeheartedly support labels and brands and companies who are breaking the mold and doing things differently. Especially ones that are making products that are just as beautiful, just as durable, just as effective as their conventional counterparts. That’s what this blog is all about! And on a scale of 1 to wasteful, pity shopping is way better than impulse shopping and buying a bunch of conventional clothing that you don’t want or need.

But an important part of being sustainable is knowing yourself, your wants, your needs, and your style. It’s saying, “I love what you’re doing, but it’s not right for me.” (Which I do all the time.) It’s looking past the eco-friendly label and thinking about whether you actually will use it.

One great trick I use is to ask myself the question: “Would I buy this ‘eco-friendly’ item if I didn’t care about sustainability?” If the answer is yes, then ding! ding! ding! You have found a winner. Oftentimes, though, you’ll realize that it’s not very attractive, or well-made, or tasty. In that case, I give you permission to not buy it.

I even give you permission to buy the conventional version if:

  1. You’ve done your research
  2. You haven’t found a viable alternative, and
  3. You’re going to love it and use it for years to come.

That still counts as conscious consumerism, so don’t feel guilty about it! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some eco-friendly clothing to take to the consignment store.

Have you ever pity shopped? Tell me about it in the comments! 

___

Alden Wicker is editor-in-chief of EcoCult, a blog covering sustainable and eco-friendly living in NYC and beyond.

Make It Work: Ceramic Crock

Adding a Glitter Stripe to a Ceramic Crock

At my company, we have a Christmas tradition of sending out ceramic crocks containing tubs of cheese spread as customer appreciation gifts. We ended up with some extras and being the waste-not, want-not girl that I am, I took one home. I’m still working through the cheese itself (“cheese food,” technically, according to the package), but I took a liking to the ceramic crock and wanted to see if I could transform it into something less logo’d and more reusable.

Ceramic crock and supplies

I’ve been itching to glitterize something for a couple of months, but I hadn’t picked a project yet, since I didn’t want to turn something recyclable into something unrecyclable by covering it in glitter and glue. I decided I would only glitterize something that was already unrecyclable… like a ceramic crock! I determined that a stripe of gold glitter around the circumference of the crock would be the perfect way to cover the logo. The supplies needed were minimal:

  • Glitter
  • Mod Podge
  • Foam brush
  • Masking tape
  • Newspaper

I got my glitter and Mod Podge from Indy Upcycle, a local shop that resells unwanted craft supplies. It’s one of my absolute favorite stores: not only is the concept ingenious, but it reduces waste, it allows me to do DIY projects without supporting mass production of craft supplies, the prices are dramatically lower than retail, and you’re encouraged to buy only what you need (which is why I have a film canister of Mod Podge instead of a huge jar). I highly recommend looking to see if you have a similar store in your community, and if you don’t, maybe start one, because this idea is golden!

I began by using the masking tape to mark the edges of the stripe. You could also use painter’s tape for this; I just happened to have masking tape. I wasn’t terribly precise, and the stripe turned out a little crooked as a result. If you want it to be perfectly straight, I recommend measuring. I also taped the handle so it would stay upright and out of the way.

Ceramic crock with masking tape

Next I used the foam brush to paint on a thin layer of Mod Podge. I was surprised by how little Mod Podge I needed. Then I started sprinkling on the glitter. Do this over newspaper to catch the extra glitter! Otherwise you will have a tragic (yet sparkly) mess.

Ceramic crock with Mod Podge and glitter

After the glitter was on, I waited a couple of minutes for it to set, then I peeled off the tape (except for the tape holding the handle upright). While the Mod Podge was still pliable, I used my fingernail to adjust a couple of particularly crooked parts of the stripe.

Ceramic crock with gold glitter stripe

I waited about 10 minutes then applied a topcoat of Mod Podge, again using the foam brush. The topcoat keeps the glitter from flaking off, which is especially important because I plan to use the crock around food. Nobody likes glitter in their salsa.

Mod Podge topcoat over glitter stripe

I waited a couple of hours for the Mod Podge to fully dry, then ta-daaaa!

Finished ceramic crock with gold glitter stripe

The project took about 30 minutes of active time, plus drying time. Even with the topcoat, the glitter is by no means waterproof, so I envision using it in ways that will only require me to wipe out the inside. For example, I could keep dip cool during a party by putting a few ice cubes in the bottom then the container of dip on top, or I could use it for dry snacks like nuts or candy.

I feel much better now that I’ve got some glitter in my life. Have you ever turned a logo’d promotional item into something you like and use? Does anyone else get an insatiable urge to cover things in glitter?

P.S. I’m finally getting on the Bloglovin train, so follow my blog with Bloglovin if that’s your reader of choice!

Conducting a Wardrobe Audit: Inventory

Conducting a Wardrobe Audit. Step One: Inventory

Since working on my shoe wardrobe post a couple weeks ago and having major breakthroughs about what kinds of shoes would actually suit my life, I realized I wanted to assess my wardrobe overall and have those insights about all my types of clothing. What do I have? What do I like, and what don’t I like? What should I look for when I shop to make sure I get clothes that I’ll really wear?

I’m calling this process the Wardrobe Audit. The goal is to prevent waste by learning to avoid impractical purchases in the future and by identifying opportunities to refashion items I already have instead of buying new. I’ll be breaking up the audit into several steps to keep it from being overwhelming. I decided the first step would simply be to take inventory of what I currently have. Counting each item requires that I at least glance at everything, which will help me make some initial insights and determine what to focus on next.

The first funny thing I realized is that I have more clothing storage locations than I thought. I keep clothes in my two bedroom closets, my dresser, the linen closet, and the coat closet (not to mention the clothes that are in my hamper at any given time).

Photo composite of closets and drawers

Not even all of it, you guys.

After going through each area, here are the totals I came up with:

  • Tops: 128
  • Sweaters: 30
  • Dresses: 33
  • Skirts: 22
  • Pants: 40
  • Shorts: 7
  • Pajamas: 11 bottoms, 12 shirts
  • Coats/jackets: 7
  • Socks: 58 pairs
  • Shoes: 35 pairs, plus 1 pair of slippers

I was actually surprised by my shoe number—I thought it would be higher, which makes me wonder if I’m forgetting another secret shoe storage location.

Based on the totals above and what I noticed when counting, the areas I want to focus on next are tops, sweaters, pants, and dresses. I plan to look through each segment in more detail and ask myself:

  • What items do I really like and wear regularly? Why?
  • What items don’t I like or wear regularly? Why?
  • Can I alter the items I don’t like to make them into something I do like? If not, how can I find them a new home?
  • Are there new items I can look for that will help make my overall wardrobe more cohesive and wearable? Should new items have any specific characteristics?

For example, I still have several pairs of pants that are too long and baggy or otherwise ill-fitting. I can turn them into skinny pants like I’ve done with a couple of other pairs, but there might be some pants that just don’t make sense with my other clothes (brown corduroy pants, I’m looking at you), so those I would need to sell or give away.

On the tops and sweaters front, one thing I noticed is that I have several shirts and sweaters that I hardly ever wear because they have three-quarter length sleeves. In theory I don’t mind three-quarter length sleeves, but in practice, I would much rather wear a short sleeve shirt with a long sleeve cardigan over it. (I think we all know how annoying it is to try to put on a cardigan over a three-quarter sleeve shirt… ain’t nobody got time to smooth out bunchy sleeves. And if it’s cold enough to wear a sweater, it’s cold enough that I want my whole arm to be covered. </oldlady> ) So for future shirt and sweater purchases, I should probably avoid three-quarter length sleeves, and for shirts I already have, I might be able to convert some three-quarter sleeves into short sleeves so they layer better.

Have you ever counted every item in your wardrobe? Were you surprised by the results? Do you share my scorn for three-quarter length sleeves?

Random Roundup: Inside a Sweatshop & Where Old Clothes Go

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a roundup, but I found some great links recently and had to share!

Some of you may have already heard about the Norwegian web series Sweatshop. It sends three fashion-loving Norwegians in their late teens/early twenties to Cambodia to meet garment workers, experience factory conditions, and try to survive on their wages. Each episode is only about 12 minutes long; I highly recommend watching the full series.

The journey of your old clothes graphic

Do you ever wonder, where do your old clothes go? In this multimedia article from the BBC, the journey of donated clothing is traced from start to finish, sometimes ending in a local charity shop and sometimes in secondhand clothing markets in countries like Ghana and Pakistan. The economic benefits of the secondhand clothing industry are up for debate—clothing markets flourish in developing countries (and create interesting jobs like the personal shopper profiled in the article), but they have also contributed to a decline in textile employment.

Screenshot of AIGA sustainbility video

I was recently watching videos from the AIGA Design Conference from a few years ago and came across this gem about sustainability, presented by Leyla Acaroglu. The ideas she presents aren’t limited to design-specific issues, and she brings a lot of energy to the sometimes daunting goal of reducing environmental impact. My favorite takeaway from the video is that “sustainability is an opportunity, not a problem.”

Have you watched the Sweatshop series? What were your thoughts?

A Minimal Shoe Wardrobe

I’ve been thinking a lot about shoes lately. This is not really anything new, as shoes are fabulous and I am in no way immune to their wiles. But ever since reading this post about wardrobe staples on The Note Passer, I’ve been pondering what my own essentials would be, specifically in the footwear arena. I wondered, would it be possible to have a complete shoe wardrobe with only six pairs of shoes? (I have 30+ pairs currently.)

As I attempted to meet this challenge, I came up with a few non-negotiable characteristics to make sure my selections would be versatile, comfortable, and actually fit into my life.

  • I don’t do heels, so every style had to be flat.
  • I work in an office with a fairly stringent dress code, so most of my selections had to be work-appropriate.
  • I eliminated all suede shoes because I want shoes that are worry-free in all kinds of weather, including snow and rain. Its fuzzy surface is also inherently more casual, which makes it hard to dress up.
  • I decided not to include specialty shoes like snow boots, running shoes or dancing shoes. Those are harder to find ethically-made, so my strategy there is to buy quality shoes that are made to last, or buy secondhand.

After some serious sole searching (see what I did there??), I came up with the following selections for my dream minimal shoe wardrobe.

Minimal Ethical Shoe Wardrobe

I organized my search by thinking about four specific types of shoe that I felt needed to be represented no matter what. Once I had my options for each type, it was just a matter of mixing them together to make a balanced wardrobe.

Loafers & oxfords

  1. Smoking Shoe in Noir from Nisolo
  2. Caramel Lalibella Loafer from Sseko Designs
  3. Joanie Faux Suede Flat from Beyond Skin
  4. Amanda Shoe from American Apparel

Ethical loafers and oxfords

Boots

  1. Scout Boots from Bourgeois Boheme
  2. Caramel Nomad Bootie from Sseko Designs

Ethical boots

Flats

I had extra criteria for flats: a quiet sole and a slightly pointed toe. Clicky shoes are hard to dress down, and a round toe is hard to dress up.

  1. The Classic Point in Metallic Gold from Poppy Barley
  2. Shelley Flat from Beyond Skin

Ethical flats

Sandals

  1. Rose Sandal from Beyond Skin
  2. Delicias Sandal in Pale Honey from Nisolo

Ethical sandals

Lessons learned

One key lesson I learned during my search is that camel/nude shoes are the key to being able to wear brown clothes without having a plethora of rarely worn brown shoes. This was both a revelation and a buzzkill, because I love brown shoes and have several pairs. (Remember the surprise boots?) But from a practical standpoint, you can wear camel or nude shoes with a lot more things, and they can be dressed up more readily than brown shoes can.

Black shoes are of course the most versatile, especially if you work in an office and wear a lot of black and gray professional attire. Metallics can act as a neutral in many cases as well, but I would recommend only having one or two pairs of metallic shoes and sticking to black or camel or nude for the rest.

Another takeaway was the wonder of oxfords and loafers. I don’t currently own any oxfords or loafers, but I now realize they would solve much of my morning shoe anxiety. They’re appropriate for the office but still work with casual clothes, they fill the gap between flats and boots, and you can wear them pretty much all year-round. I prefer oxfords to loafers, but unfortunately there were fewer ethical oxford options to be found.

The ability to dress a shoe up or down is important as well. To avoid having formal shoes that you rarely wear, get your everyday shoes a little more on the dressy side so they can work for more formal occasions.

I’m not looking to chuck all my existing shoes and start over, but this exercise definitely gave me some things to look for the next time I do need to buy shoes.

Have you ever tried to pare down your shoe collection? What are your must-have types of shoes?

Share Your Style Story

New York Fashion Week is February 12-19. When I hear Fashion Week I usually think “that thing they do at the end of Project Runway,” but I know it’s also a time when designers debut new collections and fashion in general is in the global spotlight.

To counteract the unsustainable aspects of the fashion industry that will be inherently celebrated this week, the Ethical Writers Coalition has launched Style Stories, a movement that highlights style that is both fashionable and sustainable. Anyone can submit a photo and story of their favorite outfit that contains an ethical component: fair trade, vintage/secondhand, locally made, eco-friendly, organic, cruelty-free, or otherwise ethically produced.

Style Stories information graphic

Ignore the February 12 deadline—you can still submit after that!

 

There are a couple different ways to participate:

  1. Submit your outfit on the Style Stories tumblr
  2. Post your outfit on Instagram using the hashtag #stylestories15

Even if you don’t have an outfit to share, definitely visit the Tumblr and peruse the gallery of photos. Not so long ago, ethical fashion had the stereotype of being hippie-ish and frumpy (or as my sister would say, “Everything has dragonflies on it.”) The Style Stories gallery shows that this is definitely not the case anymore, and there are ethical fashion options for every taste and style. Be sure to check out my submission while you’re there!