Save the Date for Our Next Swap!

It’s that time again! Our next style swap has been officially set for Wednesday, August 23, at New Day Craft Cider & Mead.

SummerSwap17 promo image

If you’re on the fence about whether a clothing swap is your scene, check out Bethany’s previous post about why swaps are basically the best thing ever. Then head over to the registration page to sign up!

See you at SummerSwap17!

Eco-Friendly Bedding: Organic Sheets & Mattress Protector

Organic Sheets & Mattress Protector

Check out part one to learn about my quest for a flame-retardant-free mattress.

Having recently upgraded my mattress from a full size to a queen, I found myself in need of new sheets. Like shopping for a mattress, this was new territory for me; the sheets I had been using were nearly as old as the mattress itself.

I looked exclusively for fair trade, organic cotton sheets. My primary reason for preferring organic cotton is that the growing process is less chemically-intensive, and therefore hopefully safer for farm workers. As far as I know there haven’t been any studies about the long-term health effects of organic cotton farming to definitively prove it’s safer, but there have been multiple studies linking pesticide exposure to negative health effects, and conventional cotton is one of the most world’s most chemical-intensive crops.

Sol Organix sheets on mattress

I found this sheet set offered by Sol Organix, and it turned out to be the least expensive organic and fair trade option I came across—other brands can be upwards of $200 for a queen set. Sol’s sheets are certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), which prohibits the use of various toxic inputs and sets social criteria for the entire production chain. The cotton used by Sol Organix is also certified by Fair Trade USA, indicating that the cotton was produced in accordance with fair trade principles including fair prices and credit, safe working conditions, and the absence of forced or child labor.

(One aspect of Sol Organix sheets I would have liked to see more clearly addressed on their website is the working conditions and wages for the workers who actually produce the sheets. Their website claims that the company believes in “total transparency, from farm to factory to fabric,” but they don’t provide much information about anything after the farm stage. However, social criteria for manufacturing can be found starting on page 28 of the GOTS documentation and is actually much more robust than I expected.)

Upon receiving the sheets in the mail, I was delighted by their packaging: instead of coming in a plastic zipper bag, the Sol Organix sheets came in a reusable fabric bag complete with a long strap, side pocket, and button flap.

Cotton bag used as Sol Organix sheets packaging

Granted, the bag is made of the same fabric as the sheets, so it’s not terribly sturdy, but props to Sol Organix for being super-intentional about the reusability of their packaging. I’ve actually already used the bag twice, once as a laundry sack for dirty clothes on a weekend trip and once to keep a fancy scarf segregated from dirty shoes that were sharing the same luggage. Versatile!

The sheets are incredibly soft and I love the ivory color. One minor downside is that the fitted sheet is designed to accommodate a very deep mattress, up to 17 inches. My mattress is only about 11–12 inches deep, but after washing there actually wasn’t that much excess sheet to deal with, and it all tucks away nicely under the mattress.

In addition to the sheets, I decided to cover my mattress with a waterproof mattress protector. Using a mattress protector was recommended by Holder, the company I bought my mattress from, and until then I didn’t even know waterproof mattress covers existed, other than full-on plastic sheets for children. However, in the mattress shopping process I read a lot about the dust mites and allergens and mold that can accumulate in mattresses over time. Since I intend my mattress to be a 20-year investment, I want to protect it and keep it as clean as possible. I had a brief ethical crisis about using a product that adheres polyurethane to fabric, which I assume negates any recyclability either of those materials might have had on their own, but ultimately I decided that using a small amount of eventual-trash-plastic was worth it to extend the life of a product with a much larger environment footprint (the mattress).

Naturepedic mattress protector in box

I went with Naturepedic’s organic waterproof mattress protector. As with the mattress, the major selling point for me was the absence of flame-retardant chemicals. I’m happy with it so far—it didn’t change the feel of my mattress, and I haven’t noticed it make the bed dramatically warmer (causing a bed to “sleep hot” is apparently a flaw of many mattress protectors, I learned in the shopping process).

As for the rest of my bedding, the fair trade Guatemalan quilt that I’ve written about previously was in fact queen-sized, so it still works with the new mattress just fine:

Bed with Guatemalan fair trade quilt

Have you gone organic with any of your bedding? What are your favorite sources? What’s the best reusable packing you’ve encountered, for bedding or any other type of product?

The Three Blessings of the Swap Gods

Woman browsing dresses at clothing swap

In case you missed the very brief plug at the end of my last post, we’re having another clothing swap soon! If you’re on the fence about joining us, let Bethany convince you with her tales of three blessings from the clothing swap gods. – Julia

The Match Made In Heaven

“I’m wearing your pants!”

Amanda never fails to text me this statement and it never fails to make me smile. She picked up a pair of gray pants that I had brought to the first clothing swap. These pants were nice gray jeans, something that I really liked, but they just fit me strangely and I could never quite make them look right on me. I reluctantly brought them to the swap thinking that I would take them home after if no one took them.

Sisterhood of the traveling pants

Amanda modeling the sisterhood of the traveling pants

Fortunately, the swap gods had different plans in mind. Amanda snagged them quickly and went to try them on. She came out of the bathroom wearing this pair of pants that looked like they were made for her. These pants that I struggled to make work because I loved them so much looked exactly how I wanted them to when Amanda put them on, and it was wonderful! The only thing better than getting a match made in heaven is being able to provide one for someone else, so don’t hesitate to sacrifice those items on the cusp to the swap gods – they have a match in mind!

The Impulsive Grab

Towards the end of the swap, the items left on the table are often plain t-shirts or basic clothing that doesn’t have a lot of obvious pizzazz to it. A few times, I’ve impulsively picked up a plain shirt at the end thinking “well, it can’t hurt anything, if it doesn’t work I’ll just bring it to the next swap.” Somehow, those impulse grabs from the discards always end up being the items that I wear the most. One of them was a plain black t-shirt that is thin and long, and I wear it constantly. Another last minute grab was a tank top with a bold fern and red flower pattern on it – not something that I usually gravitate towards. However, it turned out to fit me perfectly and is an item that I’m really looking forward to wearing this summer. Trust the impulses that the swap gods send!

The Gift Of The Story

“Where did you get that shirt? I really like it!”
“Oh, I bought it at such and such a store”
– conversation ends –

“Where did you get that shirt? I really like it!”
“Oh, I got it at the Fair for All Clothing Swap!”
“What’s a clothing swap?”
– conversation flows, friendship is made, everything is lovely and wonderful –

Okay, maybe a bit exaggerated – but one of the biggest blessings bestowed by the swap gods is the story that your new favorite shirt has. There’s something special about having a one-of-a-kind shopping experience, and it’s really fun to tell people where you got your eco-friendly new duds.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about the three blessings of the swap gods, and that you’ll come experience them in person on Wednesday, March 15th, from 6 pm – 8 pm at New Day Craft. Click here for more info and to RSVP!

~ Bethany

Don’t Buy Stuff: The Reduction Approach to Ethical Shopping

Less is more quote on a card on a white table

Long time no see! As you can see from my recent posts, I’ve been hustling hard on the green events front. For a change of pace from sustainable party tips, here’s Bethany with the latest update on her year-long ethical shopping journey. — Julia


Well, I’m seven months into my experiment of a year of only purchasing clothing from ethical sources—certified fair trade shops, items that are made in the US, or thrift shops. The plan was to write a blog post a month about my journey, but that hasn’t happened because I’ve been stuck on what to write about. I’ve found that I’ve stopped purchasing clothing and don’t shop nearly as much as I used to (not that I was ever a big shopper, but it definitely dropped from 2-3 times a month to 1-2 times every few months).

Part of it is laziness. It’s time consuming to do the research and find certified fair trade shops that I feel good about buying from. Even when I find a company that looks good, I find myself questioning it—what if they’re just really good at looking like they’re ethical? What if this is just a way for them to charge me $60 for a top? How do I actually know if this company is what they say they are?

The other part is the expense. Most of the pricing that I’ve seen for fair trade clothing is 10-20% higher than the fast fashion items that I used to buy. I’m not saying that’s wrong—I definitely agree that one should pay more for ethically produced items—but I also just changed jobs and am watching my bank account closely.

Because of that, reduction has been my mantra. I’ve been reducing both the number of items in my closet and the number of items that I purchase. I’ve also been reducing the amount of meat that I eat. That may seem like an odd pairing to go with clothing, but I’ve found that wanting to be more responsible in one area of my life has lead me to examine other areas of my life as well. The meat industry has a lot of the same supply chain issues that the fashion industry has—pollution and environmental devastation as well as ethical issues that with factory farming and the way animals are treated. There’s also a parallel for me with how difficult it is to actually know—how do you know for sure where your clothing is coming from and that it has been produced in an ethical way? How do you know for sure that the cow that this steak came from was treated humanely or that the farmer that raised it doesn’t dump waste in such a way that it pollutes water sources?

It feels impossible to me to actually know for sure if the items I’m consuming are produced in a way that treats people and animals ethically and does as little environmental damage as possible. So I’m reducing and simply trying to consume less of items that I know usually have ethical and environmental issues in their production (like fast fashion and fast food).

It’s hard to write interesting things about ethical shopping when your approach is “don’t buy stuff.” But sometimes it’s as simple as that.

Get Ready for SpringSwap16

It’s time for the next Fair for All style swap! SpringSwap16 is your opportunity to clean out your closet and swap unwanted items for new-to-you fashion.

This will be our third clothing swap event, and I’m so excited to have built up a community of people who enjoy getting new clothes in this fun, personal and environmentally-friendly way.

SpringSwap16 promo graphic

SpringSwap16 Women’s Style Swap

Wednesday, May 4, 2016 • New Day Craft Mead & Cider

See full details & sign up >>

Some scenes from our last swap:

Women browsing tables of clothing

Woman peruses jewelry table

Rack of women's clothing

As always, the style swap is a free event. And like at our last swap, New Day’s famous Mead & Knead will be going on in the front room at the same time, where you can get a chair massage and a glass of mead or cider for just $10. (Be sure to arrive early if you want a massage; slots fill up fast.)

We hope to see you on May 4!

How to Get Rid of Clothing Swap Leftovers

We hosted our most recent style swap on January 20, and the boxes of leftover clothes and accessories have been hanging out in my living room ever since.

Two boxes overflowing with clothes

Hi, guys.

Dealing with the leftovers is a minor inconvenience, but I actually appreciate that the swaps have given me an opportunity to experiment with different ways of connecting stuff with people who actually want it. Here’s what I’ve tried so far with this latest batch:

Consignment/Resale

At the swap, I announced that I might try selling some of the leftovers and donating the proceeds to Dress for Success. A few weeks ago I took what I considered the best of the leftovers to two consignment/resale shops, Plato’s Closet and Simply Chic. Unfortunately, neither store purchased any of the items, saying the items weren’t recent enough or weren’t in styles that sell well.

Facebook Sale Groups

After trying the resale shops, I posted four of what I considered the most appealing items in a local Facebook sale group, listing each item for a dollar. One item sold (a skirt from H&M), but the others didn’t. Given the fact that people weren’t jumping on what I thought was good stuff, I didn’t continue posting the rest.

Screenshot of Facebook sale group post

Nobody wanted these dope shoes!

I would like to continue experimenting with what works best for these groups—is there an optimal time of day to post? There are multiple sale groups for my neighborhood—does women’s fashion sell better in one group than another? Is it better to post a “closet cleanout” style post with lots of pictures and numbered items, or post one item at a time? I’m hesitant to post lots of items at once, because you still have to communicate with each buyer individually regarding pickup, which could become time-consuming if a lot of items sell.

ThredUP

My best friend is an avid devotee of ThredUP, an online resale shop for women’s and kids’ fashion. She raves about the experience from the consumer side and suggested I try out the selling side to see what it’s like. Despite the fact that the local consignment stores didn’t accept any of my items, I browsed ThredUP and saw several items similar to the items I had tried to sell, and most items I entered into the site’s Payout Estimator were marked as “Accepted.” A few items even had surprisingly high estimated payouts:

  • Etcetera dress pants – estimated payout of $18.80 to $22.80 (this has to be some kind of glitch)
  • Paper Denim & Cloth jeans – estimated payout of $8.88
  • J. Crew khakis – estimated payout of $5.13

I ended up sending in about 24 items, filling one of ThredUP’s cleanout bags. The mix included two pairs of shoes, several pairs of dress pants, tops, sweaters, and a couple of dresses. The submission process was super easy—the free shipping label comes already attached to the cleanout bag, so you don’t even have to worry about sticking it on.

Full ThredUP bag

Say hi to Frodo in the background!

Yesterday I received an email from ThredUP announcing they have received my bag and it is scheduled to be processed on April 24. The site says they accept less than 40% of what they receive, so I know not to expect them to take everything, but I’m interested to see how close the estimated payouts come to the actual, especially on the big ticket items listed above. For the items they don’t accept, they connect with textile recyclers, which I’m totally in favor of and wish I had more direct access to as a consumer.

Donate

Some of the swap leftovers weren’t on-trend enough or in good enough condition to submit to ThredUP, so I’m planning to take those items to Thrifty Threads this weekend. I like to support this particular thrift store with swap leftovers since their proceeds support the Julian Center, a local women’s shelter. I know they would probably prefer to have the good stuff than the dregs, so I hope they’re set up to sell unwanted items to textile recyclers or other resellers—this is something that’s been in the back of my mind to research.

What have your experiences with clothing resale been like? I’m hoping ThredUP is more accepting than the local stores since they cater to national trends, which are sometimes slower to reach Indiana. (I don’t think people here know that wide-leg dress pants are a thing again!) Have you ever used ThredUP, either as a buyer or seller? How about a Facebook sale group?

A Box Full of Joy

Sometimes it seems like you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a new subscription box brand. (Is this an expression other people use or is my family just morbid?) I’m usually not that into the subscription box format because I’m so particular about the ethics of the products and companies I support. However, I recently connected with Julie Overby, the co-founder of bonJOY, a brand that bills itself as a “little box of good.” I was excited to learn that their product sourcing criteria are as stringent as mine—and in fact go further by seeking out brands that specifically support women and combat human trafficking. I was immediately enamored with the company’s mission and Julie’s infectiously joyful spirit, so I asked her to share some background about bonJOY and what makes it different from other boxes.

Past bonJOY boxes

Past bonJOY boxes

Fair for All: Subscription boxes are a big trend right now. What’s the appeal?

Julie Overby: I think it’s the surprise factor! You choose a subscription box brand that’s a fit with your lifestyle, and leave it to them to curate a selection of items you might never otherwise discover and voila, it arrives on your doorstep. It’s a bit of Christmas morning all throughout the year!

Why did you start bonJOY?

Esther & I met while volunteering at a safe house for trafficking survivors, and eventually started discovering and sending each other these products we found from brands that had a heart for survivors too. We found that the subscription box concept worked beautifully as a way of sharing our finds with the world and building support for these amazing brands and the organizations they work with. In light of a such a dark and evil wrong (trafficking) in the world, we wanted to highlight the joy and restoration that these anti-trafficking organizations are making possible for women who have survived such a horrific thing.

What makes bonJOY different from other subscription boxes?

The very specific cause focus. There are other (wonderful!) fair trade and cause-related boxes out there, but to my knowledge, we’re the only one that focuses specifically on a) brands making a positive impact for women, b) disadvantaged or at-risk women, and c) trafficking-specific causes. We don’t promote an amazing value because we’re actually paying our partners their full wholesale rates for their products  we want to make sure each box creates the maximum impact. (Many other boxes get products for free or at a greatly reduced cost.) More things you might not guess about us here!

Why the focus on human trafficking?

It’s something both of us are passionate about, but we’re not lawyers, doctors, or ex-SEALs, so we’re not out there busting down doors and saving these girls. It’s kind of beautiful how it worked out, but we’re able to take our abilities and interests and support the people doing just that through building business for these brands. As awareness about the issue grows (and it’s grown a LOT in the past five years), people are looking more and more for ways that they can respond and join in the fight, and we think this is one way to do just that. Plus, I’m crazy about being able to tell a story with my purchases  I love having things in my home and closet that I can’t help but talk about. Some of the pieces we feature are even signed by the women who made them, which I think is so awe-inspiring.

bonjoy-box-label

What criteria do products have to meet to be included in a bonJOY box?

They’ve got to be made ethically, number one. We also want them to be creating some kind of positive impact, whether that’s a donation to an organization somewhere or creating employment for survivors trying to get back on their feet. For consumable products like beauty and candles, that sort of thing, we also do the research to make sure ingredients are pure and good for you and the earth. Bonus points when a product is eco-friendly.

Tell me about your joy philosophy. (I’m kind of in love with it.)

We think of joy as a weapon against the darkness. When these survivors light up the world by smiling with abandon… wow. Talk about inspiration. As humans and consumers, we want to fight for pervasive joy  in the way we live and interact, in the products we use, in the causes we support. It’s simple, but it can be a challenge. Joy is easy to chase though  it doesn’t lie. :-) You can read more about our perspective and our core values in this blog post.

What’s your favorite item that has been included in a bonJOY box?

Oh boy, so many! Soap from the Hope Soap Project (loooove their bars), facial wipes from Rooted Beauty (so perfect for travelling and so affordable — actually, Target just picked them up!), and this simple yet gorgeous necklace from Purpose Jewelry (hand-signed by a survivor and everyday kind of wearable). You can see everything we’ve featured before here.

What’s next for bonJOY?

Well, we just launched a new subscription option, so instead of just shipping quarterly like we did last year, we’ve added a monthly box on top of that. It’s $35/month + free shipping, and I think it’s a great deal if you love discovery and want to join us in creating consistent impact. We’re also partnering with four key anti-trafficking organizations this year to give $1 from each box and inviting subscribers to add a donation on top of that. A21 is our first Give-Back Partner. Really excited about that one and looking forward to seeing the kind of impact we can make together. Beyond that, we’re looking at some really exciting collaborations and themed boxes later in the year, so stay tuned! We’ve got lots of ideas, just need the time and womanpower to bring them to life. :-)

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If you decide to order a box of ethical awesomeness from bonJOY, use coupon code FAIRFORALL to get $2 off.

Find out more about bonJOY at bonjoybox.com or on social media; they’re @bonjoybox on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Introducing Bethany, our new contributor!

I’m thrilled that my good friend Bethany Daugherty is joining the Fair for All team as a contributor! She will be sharing periodic updates as she goes on a mission to buy only ethically-made or secondhand clothing this year. Here’s Bethany’s introduction to her quest in her own words. — Julia


Three years ago, I texted a number off of a really sketchy looking flyer that was posted on a bulletin board at the college I was about to graduate from. The flyer was very vague and plain, and said “Looking for a bass player for a bluegrass band. Text Kevin at 317-XXX-XXXX.”

I had just stolen a string bass, and was looking for more opportunities to learn how to play it. Okay, okay, I didn’t really steal it…I actually borrowed it from my mom and then never gave it back (thanks Mom!). I texted the number. This Kevin character texted back, and it was all set up for me to attend the first rehearsal at his house. All I could think was “I’m probably going to get murdered and killed.” Then I got another text asking if I had any food allergies. Murderers don’t care about food allergies! Little did I know that texting a random person from a sketchy flyer would turn out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. And guess who was also a part of this band?

Group photo of Juvin: The One-Man Band

Bethany (left) with her quasi-stolen bass and the band

That’s right, none other than the lovely Julia Spangler! Over the past three years, we have become good friends, and I started reading this blog. When she screened “The True Cost,” I attended, and it was really eye-opening for me. Over the past six or seven months, I’ve had a Dr. Seuss quote stuck in my head:

Even though you can’t hear them or see them at all, a person’s a person, no matter how small.”

It really reminds me of the issues that were presented in that film. I can’t hear or see or know the people who are at the other end of the goods that I consume, but I can’t pretend they don’t exist.

In 2016, I’m tackling the sartorial issue head first—I am choosing to take responsibility for every dollar I spend, and committing to not purchase any new items of clothing unless they are fair trade. I’ll be relying on thrift shops, clothing swaps, and fair trade retail…and making do with the clothing I already own! You can look forward to upcoming blog posts throughout the year about my progress, what I learn through this process, and various DIY posts as I spruce up the clothing I own.

Bethany browsing tables of clothing

Bethany swappin’ it up at FairSwap15

I’m pretty new to all of this, and I’m still learning all the ins and outs on my quest to take responsibility for my own wallet. I still make mistakes, and I still occasionally buy something that I’m not entirely sure where it came from. Some of the challenges I’m anticipating are finding work-appropriate pants (that fit correctly and are not giant bell bottoms), blue jeans, undergarments, exercise clothing, and shoes. I’m only one month into this challenge, and it already sometimes feels overwhelming, but at the end of the day it helps me sleep at night to know that I’m doing what I can to treat those invisible and silent people with respect.

Upcoming Events in January: Trunk Show and Style Swap

January looms before us as a barren wasteland of post-holiday gloom. But fear not! I have two free events coming up that are sure to break up your winter doldrums.

Slow Fashion Trunk Show promo poster

Slow Fashion Trunk Show

Thursday, Jan. 7 from 6:30–8:30 p.m.
Outpost (Circle Centre Mall, 2nd floor, across from H&M)

Elizabeth Roney from Liz Alig, Sara Baldwin-Schatz from Lux & Ivy, and I are teaming up for an evening of fair trade fashion, secondhand style, and sustainable strategies. Elizabeth and Sara will offer great slow fashion items from their brands, and I’ll speak on the differences between slow fashion and fast fashion, with time for Q&A from all three of us. It’s also a great chance to see the Outpost pop-up shop before it closes!

Women browsing clothes at FairSwap15

WinterSwap16 Women’s Style Swap

Wednesday, Jan. 20 from 6–8 p.m.
New Day Craft

FairSwap15 was such a big hit last September that we’re bringing it back in January! Collect any wearable holiday gifts that weren’t quite your style, plus any other unwanted clothing, shoes and accessories you have, and bring them to WinterSwap16. This swap will be bigger and better than the last with more items allowed per person. Plus, New Day’s famous Mead & Knead will be going on at the same time! Sign up and get the full details. Spots are limited!

Check out photos and details from past events on the Events page. Happy holidays and I’ll see you in January!

The Journey Behind the “World’s Greatest Beanie”

Krochet Kids Intl. is a brand that’s truly dedicated to connecting consumers with the people behind their products. I’m excited to share their latest project with you, via the following post written and originally published by Abby Calhoun on her blog A Conscious Consumer.

Abby founded A Conscious Consumer as a way to document her journey towards practicing more mindful fashion consumption. Through her site she hopes to inspire others to evaluate their needs vs. wants in relation to fashion, and to look for alternative ways to satisfy both without compromising people or the environment.

Gray beanie on work table

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: as far as transparent and socially conscious brands go, Krochet Kids intl. is a leader of the pack. Since their inception in 2007, KK intl. has emerged as pioneers in the #knowwhomadeit movement, drawing consumer attention to the people at every step of the production process. Now they’re taking their innovative approach to social enterprise to the next level.

With the launch of their new Kickstarter campaign, KK intl. is asking for support in making the “World’s Greatest Beanie,” a project named for its revolutionary look at their supply chain and its emphasis on environmental sustainability. The “World’s Greatest Beanie” is made from the finest materials available without the use of chemicals or dyes, and in true KK intl. fashion, introduces supporters to every person along the production chain.

We took extra considerations into understanding every detail that goes into creating this product. Generations of craftsmanship stand behind the process and we are so excited to introduce a new generation of customers to the importance of these stories, both from a quality and social impact standpoint.

– Kohl Crecelius, CEO & Co­founder

The beanie starts at an alpaca farm in the Andes Mountains of Peru, and moves from farmer, to shearer, to fiber selector, to yarn maker, to craftswomen, and finally to consumer, all with complete transparency:

Alpacas grazing
Alpacas on a hillside in Peru
Worker selecting alpaca fibers
Close-up of alpaca yarn
Woman wearing gray beanie
Photos and signatures of workers

*all images courtesy of KK intl.

In line with KK intl. tradition, every beanie is hand ­signed by the woman who made it, connecting consumer with producer. KK intl. is dedicated to repairing these broken links that are inherent in the fashion industry as we know it today, and is demonstrating how one purchase can make a huge impact. Their model is based on empowerment and challenges consumers to transform the global fashion industry with their purchase.

We believe products have worth because people do. Our world would be a drastically different place if we all considered the impact our clothing had on the people who created it. This is the conversation that we want to bring to the forefront of the global dialogue.

Please consider standing up with KK intl. to let the world know there’s a new way that our products can be valued. By supporting their Kickstarter campaign, you can be part of a movement that says people matter.