Let’s Go, 2021.

2020 has finally come to an end, whew. I was not one of the folks who was desperately waiting for 2020 to end, excited for something to magically change on January 1, 2021 about our current predicament in the world. But, that being said, I am happy to leave 2020 in the past and looking forward to vaccines, possibly traveling to see family more often, and not caring about what the government is doing on a daily basis…simple things really. I feel like 2021 will be a year of relaxing and getting life back in order; I am not expecting big things until 2022. And by big things I mean traveling and paying off my student loans.

Here are my goals for 2021:

  1. Be smart with finances. I am trying to pay off my student loans by the end of 2022 (3 years ahead of schedule) so I really need to be smart with my finances and make smart money moves over this year and the next. I also kind of want to get a Peloton once we move into a larger apartment, so I’m thinking about saving a bit to get one by the end of 2021. But we’ll see, debt first.
  2. Keep reading. I’m not setting a goal of 60 books again this year, as I got burned out this year by December and it wasn’t enjoyable to read any more. I’m cutting back to 40; I hope to read some series and longer length books I was unable to read in 2020 since I was sprinting to hit my 60 reads mark. I do really enjoy reading and want to keep that in my routine.
  3. Have a better relationship with LA. I lived in LA for 6 months before COVID happened and once that hit, I was unable to do anything, so I don’t have a best relationship with LA/California. I really want to take more time to go to the beach and read or walk. I also want to explore more of the parks/trails, and try some more cultural restaurants that I won’t be able to eat once I move back to the midwest.
  4. Take trips. Kind of in tandem with the above, but it’s so easy to access hundreds of small coastal towns, national parks and interesting places from southern CA. We have friends in Denver, so hoping to visit them, possibly visit a friend in SF, as well, and possibly a glamping trip in the mountains with my best friend. Will any of this happen in 2021? Who knows, I’m keeping expectations low this year, but overall, just want to leave my apartment more in 2021, even if it’s a day trip to Santa Barbara.
  5. Buy 30 clothing pieces, only. Seriously, I want to keep track of my clothing purchases and only buy 30 pieces total. I’ll write more about this in a post later, but I bought way too much this year and I want to cut back in 2021.
  6. Try new things. I want to push myself out of my comfort zone, take a baking or tennis class, try boxing, or try a new food. Not about to go sky diving but small things I can do to push myself in 2021.

What are your goals for 2021? Or after 2020, have you learned to not focus on goals/intentions and just let what will happen, happen?

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

Journey to Sustainability: Zero Waste Options

As I’ve been journeying down to fashion sustainability town, I’ve been learning a lot about zero waste living as well. Basically, one lives a lifestyle that is zero waste- so think composting, not using plastic bottles/bags, etc. It’s a very cool thing and I would love to get there some day but it seems really overwhelming when you actually sit down and think about all of the waste you create on the average day. From toilet paper, tampons, and shampoo bottles, to ziploc bags, paper towels and sponges, there are literally hundreds of products in my apartment right now that will eventually sit in a landfill.

Like I said, it’s overwhelming and honestly, where does one even start? I decided to start small with some everyday things like:

Stasher bags: I ran out of Ziploc bags and decided to make the switch. I do need to buy some more as I only have three at the moment, but they’re a great way to re-use and reduce waste.

Cloth Produce Bags: I wonder how many minutes of my life I’ve wasted trying to open those god awful thin plastic produce bags they provide at the store? Regardless, I can’t stand them and was happy to find an alternative to bagging my produce. I love these so much and it’s so easy to toss in the wash every few weeks.

Toothpaste Bites: I was running out of tradition tube toothpaste and thought why not try these? These come in a glass jar and if you subscribe, Bite will send you refills in a packet so you can refill your glass jar. Most toothpaste tubes aren’t recyclable (I believe Tom’s of Maine might be one of the few), and millions get dumped in landfills every year.

I really really love these bites; however, the cost of these is higher and since there are two of us, we go through them twice as fast (all the quantities are so small?). There are some other brands I might try, but it seems like a lot to spend $15-$30 on toothpaste every month. If I lived by myself, I could definitely swing that cost every 2 months, but until this becomes more mainstream, not sure if I’ll be doing this!

Reusable Cutlery: I love this set I got from Anthro, it’s perfect to fit into my lunchbox (well when I was taking a lunch), but overall, great and condense option for traveling, and they are dishwasher safe!

Shampoo Bar: I also was running low on shampoo and discovered shampoo bars; there are dozens of kinds of bars, all with mixed reviews. Instead of spending $12 on a LUSH or Meow Meow Tweet bar, I decided to see if I would even like using a shampoo bar, and bought one from Target for $4.99. I’m still getting used to it, but this way, I can try it and then possibly shift to another brand with higher reviews.

Silicone Body Scrubber: Just to be clear, this would not align with zero waste, as it is still recycled, but I wanted to share it, because unlike loofahs, these are 100% recyclable and aren’t breeding grounds for bacteria. I also love this one I got, it does a great job and somehow sticks to the wall of my shower without falling? I love it.

As you can see, generally, my method for shifting into a more zero waste lifestyle has been using what I have and replacing with a better for the earth alternative when the need arises. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to being completely zero waste; I love my Charmin soft TP and menstrual cups kind of gross me out tbh, but I did shift into organic cotton tampons…baby steps, right?

(Also TMI? but who cares, we all know women get periods and use the toilet)

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Would you ever consider shifting into a more sustainable lifestyle or are you already on your own journey? I would love to hear about the things you couldn’t make the switch on, or things you’re already doing (I need some tips)!

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

2020 Goals, Are We Still Doing This?

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I had 5 goals for 2020 and I honestly forgot what they were (oops). I think the pandemic just cancelled everything for 2020? That’s what we’re doing right? All joking aside, I thought it would be a good time to check in again since we’re now closer to the end of the year than the start, and see if I am tracking towards those goals or not, and maybe re-evaluate the goals I did set.

  1. Save money by becoming a more mindful consumer. Well, I can say I’m halfway tracking toward this. I am becoming a more mindful consumer as I’m learning more about sustainability and thrifting, but I haven’t stopped spending money. I have been saving money since I’ve been thrifting and not paying full price for new things, but in regards to saving 25% of my income, yeah, next question.
  2.  Read more. My goal was 30 books for the year and I am currently at 33 books and counting. I want to increase this goal to 60 books for 2020. Let’s go!
  3. Make Friends. Hah, no comment. I do have a new book club I’m joining that will be meeting this weekend. Doubt I’ll make any friends BUT I am trying and putting myself out there. Huzzah for some-ish-kind of effort!
  4. Make 5 difficult recipes. Hm, I haven’t actually ventured down to difficult recipes town since I roasted that chicken (its little cold body was so traumatizing to hold). I can try harder here. I’m thinking spaghetti or tiered cake from scratch. Any good recipes out there?
  5. Be Present. I removed social media apps from my phone for the month of June and I haven’t yet re-installed them. I do still have them on my iPad and I can easily access from my laptop as well, but I do feel like I’ve made strides here, choosing to do things during the weekend days, rather than lay around scrolling through all my feeds.

Is anyone still tracking their 2020 goals, or has everyone else written off this year due to the pandemic and starting new in 2021?

I think I’m planning on making Ina Garten’s Spaghetti next weekend, will keep you posted how that goes…

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

Sincerely Seven: Week 30

Happy Sunday! I hope everyone had a great week. Mine was b u s y! I had back to back meetings all day, every day, it was kind of awful? I took Friday off and we drove up to Thousand Oaks to go to a ‘Pick your Own’ farm which was super fun!

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On the hunt for 🍓

  1. I bet you all had a great week because TAYLOR ALISON SWIFT DROPPED A SURPRISE ALBUM, what e v e n. If you haven’t heard it (I don’t know why that would be), you can buy it here. It’s sonically cohesive and beautifully written, and I love every song. I think my favorite song is ‘invisible string’ because I’m a simple cute love song kind of gal. Also, here’s a video for the song “Cardigan,” which makes me want to become a fairy in the forest. Any other Swifties in the house?
  2. Y’all I made these Strawberry Glazed Chai Donuts with the strawberries we picked and oh. my. laaawd. I love chai everything and the strawberries were bursting with flavor, together it is magic. I did add too much flour (oops) so these turned out more bread-nut than dough-nut, but the flavor is what matters, right?
  3. My lady hero of the week is AOC. If you missed her powerful speech (I’m concerned are you living under a rock?), here it is in all its glory.  Background: Rep. Yoho allegedly called her a ‘fuxking bitch,’ and she decided to speak out about it, because otherwise, the behavior would continue to be allowed. I love how graceful and dignified she was as she spoke, it was inspiring to see her stand up for herself and essentially all women. My favorite quote that I want tattooed on my face is:

    “Having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man, and when a decent man messes up as we are all bound to do, he tried his best and does apologise. Not to save face, not to win a vote, he apologises genuinely to repair and acknowledge the harm done so that we can all move on.”

  4. Did you know the internet generates carbon so every email you send or receive is impacting the earth? Makes you want to take the time to hit that ‘unsubscribe’ button for brands you no longer shop at, OR re-evaluate if this meeting could be an email!
  5. To all my Americans, 100 days until the election people!! I am a voter is a great resource to register, or check if you’re registered, sign up for reminders, etc. We need to get out and vote in all elections, both local and federal. Our nation is falling apart (see Portland, Seattle, etc) and we need leaders across the board to step it up or know that they will get voted out.
  6. We watched Palm Springs on Hulu this week and while I am very much over the ‘Caddy Shack’ plot, this movie was actually, funny, cute and a surprise twist I did not see coming. Overall, would recommend watching, especially if you’re an Andy Samberg fan!
  7. Finally, for anyone else working from home, I hope you’ll find this video as hilarious and on point as I did, in Apple presents, ‘The Whole Working From Home Thing.’

Happy thoughts for a new week ahead!

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

Ethical and Social Sustainability: Certifications and Beyond (4/4)

Welcome to part 4 in my series on Sustainable Fashion, looking into the environmental and social aspects of manufacturing and production. So you took my advice from my last post on social and ethical sustainability, and spent some time researching your favorite clothing company. Maybe you found a lot of information, or maybe you didn’t find much. But how do you know what certifications are good, or worthwhile? Here I’m listing out the most common and easily attainable certifications, so the brands you shop at should at least have one or a few of these. Trust me, if they utilize any of these, it will be proudly displayed on their websites.

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Mill/Factory Certifications

WRAP-–Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production is an independent, objective, non-profit team of global social compliance experts dedicated to promoting safe, lawful, humane, and ethical manufacturing around the world through certification and education. Read more about the 12 principles here.

FairTrade—engages textile manufacturers (mills) and workers in the supply chain to bring about better wages and working conditions, and engages brands to commit to fair terms of trade.

SA8000—is the leading social certification standard for factories and organizations across the globe. It also respects, complements and supports national labor laws around the world, and currently helps secure ethical working conditions for two million workers.

Textile/Material Certifications (these are more environmental but still good to have)

OEKO-TEX-–All types of textiles that have been tested for harmful substances, from yarns to the finished product, may bear the STANDARD 100 product label.

FSC-Certified— Forest Stewardship Council is the “gold standard” designation for wood harvested from forests that are responsibly managed, socially beneficial, environmentally conscious, and economically viable.

Better Cotton Initiative or BCI—is the largest cotton sustainability program in the world. BCI exists to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and better for the sector’s future.

Social Compliance

Nest—building a new handworker economy to increase global workforce inclusivity, improve women’s wellbeing beyond factories, and preserve important cultural traditions around the world. Look for companies who have a special online shop featuring local artisans and craftspeople, like Madewell and West Elm.

Certified B Corp—Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.

There are dozens more where those came from, so I encourage you once again to do some research into factory and garment certifications so you can shop better. I would also encourage you to continue down this ‘sustainable fashion’ path. I know I will continue to post about sustainable brands and eventually, shifting into a ‘Nothing New’ wardrobe. I’ve already started buying a few things second hand and reselling my own clothes on Poshmark.

Finally, here are some resources I’ve personally found or been recommended by a friend to deepen my understanding of sustainable fashion and the ways I can change my lifestyle.

Books

The Conscious Closet by Elizabeth L. Cline

Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes by Dana Thomas

Videos

The Ugly Truth of Fast Fashion, Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj (Netflix)

How to Engage with Ethical Fashion, TEDTalk with Clara Vuletich

The True Cost, free on Tubi

Instagram Accounts To Follow

Live with Less

Cut the Waste

Sustainable Elle

JHÁNNEU

Sustain Yo’self

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

Ethical and Social Sustainability: Fashion’s Other Ugly Secret (3/4)

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been talking about sustainable fashion in regards to the environment and how we as consumers need to take charge in understanding our duty in being mindful of our fashion purchases. The other portion of sustainability deals with ethical and social responsibility. Everyone can probably recall the massive backlash Nike faced when it came out that the brand was using sweatshops in Indonesia and Vietnam to produce their goods, followed by a fire and many deaths at one of their Bangladesh factories, where there were unsafe working conditions and unethical labor practices. Here we see fashion’s other ugly secret: unfair and unsafe labor conditions within garment manufacturing that have been outsourced to developing countries in Asia for cheaper labor and faster to market capabilities.

Not all in China

Many consumers have this notion that anything ‘Made in China’ was made by a child  who was getting roughly $0.01 for a 12 hour day’s work. I have actually seen people scoff at a ‘Made in China’ label as if the garment was toxic poison. The thing is, yes, this scenario of unfair child labor can happen even in today’s modern world, but it’s far less likely that it would happen in China, versus say, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh. China has come a long way and is more industrialized than say, 15 years ago. Like the US’s own industrial timeline, there are now labor unions, growing government regulations and workers are starting to demand more from the factory owners, in terms of pay and benefits. Countries like Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, on the other hand, are still in the early stages of their industrial revolution; therefore, their workers are uneducated and don’t necessarily know any better, or they do know better but are desperate for the job and its pay so they can’t do anything. To workers in those countries, having a job that pays any amount of money (sometimes pennies in US dollars) is often worth it in order to provide for families.  Here is where it is more likely for us to see factory owners taking advantage of their workers.

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It’s been awhile since Nike was exposed, but brands are still being called out today for utilizing unfair labor practices. But just because something  says ‘Made in USA’ doesn’t mean anything. 20 minutes away from me, in Downtown LA, are our nation’s own sweatshops that employ mostly immigrants and have been found to pay under minimum wage.  Recently, the brand Fashion Nova was revealed to have been utilizing these garment factories to produce their own, ‘Made in America’ clothing line. Syama Meagher of Forbes describes the issue of DTLA garment factories in her article, ‘The Not-So-Hidden Ethical Cost Of Fast Fashion: Sneaky Sweatshops In Our Own Backyard’; here she says,

“In fact, the Department of Labor (DOL) investigated garment factories in Los Angeles and found that 85 percent of them have wage violations. The fact that many of these workers are undocumented may make it easier, subconsciously, to let it slide when its happening on own soil.”

It seems that once again, brands are driven to make unethical decisions, in part because of consumer demand for fast and cheap fashion, but also because most brands have high mark-ups or margins that help them turn profit.

Margin and Profit and Sales, Oh My!

What is a margin? Let’s look at a baseball cap. You might have purchased it for $24, it cost the brand around $4-6 to make and get that cap into your hands. Materials (fabric and threads) were around $2.00, trims and packaging will be around $1.00. Factory profit might be around $0.80 to $1.00 and boat shipment will be around $0.20. Labor will also be around $0.80 to $1.00, give or take. At a $6.00 cost, the brand is making 75% margin on you purchasing that cap at $24.00. Now, brands do this because we live in a sale-heavy capitalist culture where most companies 1. need to make money and 2. hold 25% or 50% off sales which cut down on margin or how much they’re making. Because of this, they gauge what the highest reasonable cost a consumer will pay for an item and ticket it there, knowing the average customer will ultimately end up paying less. It’s kind of horrible and why I cannot purchase anything at full price, but hey, it’s a business that has to make money in our capitalistic culture, right?

I mentioned the brand, Everlane, last week, but on almost every product page they have, they tell consumers exactly how much it cost them to make that item. Per below, they’re still making a 67% margin on this pair of shorts, which is actually pretty high, but labor is about 40% of the item’s cost, which is really great comparatively. I do have to assume though that part of that  $6.28 is going to factory profit and not true labor, but this is a better effort than most brands to be transparent about their cost of goods (COGS).

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Source

Almost any retail business will have at least 50% margin; that’s not necessarily an accusation, like I said, it’s a business that needs to generate profit. Stores that do not frequently hold sales, I would bet a lot of money they have lower margins, whereas brand with big sales every weekend? I guarantee you their margins are in the high 70’s, possibly even 80’s.

Find The Culprit

Social and ethical sustainability is something more top of mind for brands as compared to environmental sustainability; if you investigate, many brands have web pages dedicated to how their company is committed to utilizing manufacturers that employ fair labor practices (here is one example, and another). Brands boast factory certifications and metrics as proof that they care, making it easy for consumers to know how a garment is being made. Some companies, like West Elm, are even putting the information directly on the product page itself (see Fair Trade and Sustainably sourced icons at top of page). On this front, it’s harder for consumers to claim ‘out of sight out of mind’ since information on social sustainability is more readily available and more widely known.

As consumers, we need to be doing a bit of research on the companies we shop at. Just start with one, maybe the brand you automatically go to when you need to shop for a new outfit. Dig around their website and try to see what they are committed to doing for social sustainability. If you can’t find anything, I would even encourage you to reach out to customer service. If it turns out that brand isn’t doing anything or has a vague, ‘we’re committed to fair labor practices,’ well, I know I would think twice before shopping there again. Like environmental sustainability, brands who actually have plans will have numbers, certifications, and data to back up the claims.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I would really recommend watching The True Cost, free on Tubi. It’s easy to read about, but it’s a lot more heart wrenching to see footage of people working in factories in such low working conditions. Research the brands you shop at, get to know where you give your money and if you should continue to support those companies. With Google, it’s so easy to find news articles about various brands and how they are or aren’t being sustainable. I do want to warn you; however, even the factories with certifications or fair working conditions, are still, well, factories. They’re dirty, with materials lying about, some even having dirt floors. Good conditions for us in America aren’t always feasible in a third world country, so their best conditions are still equivalent to our poor conditions.

It’s also easy to blame brands for having corporate greed and not caring enough about workers thousands of miles away, but at the end of the day, these brands were driven to the fast fashion model because of consumerism and the customers need for newer, cheaper fashion NOW. Again, we as consumers really need to rethink our values and stop  succumbing to materialistic ideals and shift more into a minimalistic way of thinking. I’m not saying you should shift into only owning 5 pieces of clothing, but I would encourage you to think when you’re out shopping about whether you need a new top, adding to the 25 tops already hanging in your closet. It’s a way of life that we all need to embrace if we want to see change in both social and environmental sustainability.

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

 

Sources:

personal: 4+ years in apparel and home goods production internationally

The Not-So-Hidden Ethical Cost Of Fast Fashion: Sneaky Sweatshops In Our Own Backyard