Vegan Sandals for Summer

VeganSandals

With summer now here, I’m exchanging my winter boots for some sandals. One thing that most my vegan friends tell me is how hard it is to find good quality vegan shoes. Yes, you can technically find vegan shoes at places like H&M or Forever 21, but what they don’t show you is the unethical ways in which that shoe was made from the underage labor to the unsafe, toxic environmental damage that the materials impact water sources. So, beware of the true cost of cheap shoes. Instead, try investing in good quality shoes, which will be more expensive upfront, but will last you in the long haul, will be better for environment, and will provide a livable wage to whoever made them. So, keep reading to discovery some of the best companies in the business providing ethically made, sustainable vegan shoes.

This first company, Avesu is a vegan shoe company from Berlin, Germany. They have shipping to almost anywhere worldwide and all shoes and accessories are made from ethically sourced, environmentally friendly materials by workers who are treated fairly and with respect. What I like about this company is how transparent they are. Here are some facts about their workers in their Brazil factory: Location – Franca, São Paulo, Brazil, Production Volume – 50 pairs/week, 600 pairs/month, Factory Size – 11 employees, Working Hours – 7 am until 4.30 pm (including 1hour lunch break), Hours per week – 42.5 hours, Salary – 1.800 BRL/month (+ 275 BRL food bonus), Industry Standard Pay – 1.080 BRL/month. These simple facts go to show you how much their shoes are helping to pave the way for fair and respectful working conditions in factories. And on top of all of that, their shoes are amazing! They offer every type of style you can think of from high heels to hiking boots, to tennis shoes. And they have shoes for men, women, and children. These will be pricey upfront, but if you can spend over $100 on Nike shoes (which have very questionably unethical working conditions in their factories and unsustainable environmental waste from their materials), then these shoes will be a bargain for you in comparison without compromising the integrity of factory workers or without damaging the environment.

Cleo

Check out these gorgeous Cleo wedges that are perfect for dressing up any occasion. They were originally $108, but right now they are on sale for $54. I own a pair of wedges that my mother-in-law (who is from Germany) bought from this company, and seven years later I still have them, and they are in fantastic condition. So, if you choose some of the classier styles, then these will last you a lifetime, which is an amazing bargain. Another style that is very fashionable now are espadrilles. I’ve seen many fashion bloggers on Instagram sporting the Chanel espadrilles, which look chic but are made with leather. Avesu offers quite a selection on a similar style that I think look just as cute.

These shoes are great for when it’s hot and humid outside because they are lightweight and breathable. If you are planning on travelling this summer, these shoes make excellent walking shoes for your travels. I love how you can also easily slip these on or off. And they have many more styles, prints, patterns available on their website too. And at $55, these are way more affordable than the $700 price tag on the Chanel espadrilles.

Shop Avesu for even more options.

My next recommendation is a website called Moo Shoes. This PETA-approved vegan company is focused on bringing vegan fashion to the mainstream. Once you start browsing this website you can see how trendy their shoes are. They offer a selection ranging from budget conscious quality to handmade designer brands. All of Moo Shoes’ products have been vetted to ensure they meet the standards of cruelty-free sourcing to fair and safe working conditions during production. I love their block heels, they have both low and higher heels for this style.

I love the Gwen sandal on the right. It has a texture that makes it almost look like it is made from leather. And the lower block heel on the left is more of my heel preference, which is great if you are travelling or planning to walk around a bunch for the day. But both these shoes are stylishly trendy and great options for summer nights out. The average price of shoes from here ranges from $90-$140. They offer excellent quality with some style.

Leone Mule

Another style that is quite on trend at the moment are mules for summer. This is the Leone Mule from Matt and Nat and it’s simply gorgeous. I love love love the shiny, mirror reflection of the heel paired with the faux leather band of the mule. I can see this paired in so many ways, with jeans and a blazer, with shorts and a classic, fitted tee shirt, with a fun, floral dress, or with a bathing suit and cover. It’s definitely a statement piece, but they will dress up any outfit you can think of for summer. This pair costs $120, but you can trust the quality of Matt and Nat, they make some of the best (if not, the best) vegan shoes out there on the market.

Moo Shoes is located in New York and LA, but make sure to check out their website because they carry all types of shoes for women, children, and men that range from dress shoes, business shoes, boots, tennis shoes, heels, sandals, you name it.

Shop Moo Shoes for even more options.

This summer you can rock some serious kicks that are super cute, fashionable, ethically made, and vegan. Make sure to check theses websites out and show them some love. Shoes plus internet shopping, veganism has never been made easier!

Natural, Organic, and Eco-Friendly Vegan Makeup Brands

MarbleMakeup

If you are new to being vegan, you might not know that a lot of makeup companies still test on animals. I honestly have no idea why animals need to be tested for mascaras and lipsticks. It seems a bit outdated to me. But, not to worry because more companies everyday are becoming cruelty-free and are making their ingredients vegan. So, I’ve compiled some of my favorite companies that are organic, natural, and eco-friendly. If you are like me and you like to change up your makeup for summertime, then make sure to check these makeup brands because they offer lightweight, colorful, and fun products for summer. But make sure to read to the end to find even more vegan makeup options at the drugstore and high-end vegan makeup options at places like Sephora and Ulta.

Before I dive in, I’d like to note that certain vegan makeup brands are excluded from this list because while they retail in the US as vegan, however, they sell to China which tests all their imported makeup on animals making them not vegan.

Pacifica

Pacifica_EyechadowPalette

This is a wonderful, budget-friendly brand. They offer quite a range in skin care as well as makeup items. Their primers, skincare, lotions are by far some of their best-sellers. But I happen to like their eyeshadow palettes because they make have natural colors as well as colorful, smoky palettes as well. Most products range from $10-$20, making these makeup items easily affordable and accessible.

Shop Pacifica online here.

Real Purity

RealPurity

This makeup brand is perfect for those that are new to vegan, cruelty-free makeup because they are best known for being able to select sample colors to choose from, which makes it easy for you to pick the right color for you and your skin tone. So, you can easily get samples without having to commit right away to the investment of a whole bottle or tube of product. What I like best about this company is that their products are made from all-natural botanical and plant-derived ingredients. Plus, they affordably range from $10-$30 per product.

Shop Real Purity online here.

Juice Beauty

JuiceBeauty

This natural and organic makeup company is best known for moisturizers and anti-wrinkle treatments and serums. But this company takes eco-friendly to the next level by being USDA certified Organic, using local sources for its ingredients, and using solar and wind power in the manufacturing as well as using recycled packaging. Not only are they vegan and cruelty-free, they also give back to charities as well. They are priced from $20-$40.

Shop Juice Beauty online here.

Afterglow

Afterglow

Afterglow is a great brand for those with sensitive skin because their organic, natural ingredients blends minerals and natural pigments to carefully formulate their makeup to be soy-free, gluten-free, cruelty-free, vegan and fair trade. They are best known for the colorful pigments which are exemplified best by their color range in blushes and lipsticks. What’s also unique about this brand is that their products can be refilled (not wasting its packaging) and their packaging is made from recycled materials. Most products range from $20-$40.

Shop Afterglow online here.

Alima Pure

AlimaPure

This makeup brand is highly regarded for its inclusiveness for having their signature powder foundation for all skin tones. They have an amazing wide range of diverse skin colors to choose from, so if you have a skin tone that is harder to find in most makeup brands, make sure to give this makeup brand a try because I’m sure you’ll find your shade with them. Their signature powder foundation is like Bare Minerals, but their high-quality, pure ingredients never includes synthetic dyes to achieve its color. Not only does this company dedicate itself to uncompromising natural and organic beauty, they also are eco-friendly. They use soy-inks on recycled paper for packaging, they are carbon-neutral, and their compacts are refillable. Pricing for their foundations is $28, with eyeshadow pigments costing $14 per color. So, it is a little bit pricier, but it’s still comparable to brands like Bare Minerals.

Shop Alima Pure online here.

If natural looking makeup isn’t your go-to look and you prefer brands at the drugstore or brands at stores like Sephora or Ulta, then below are bullet point lists with a few more of my favorite vegan companies that are sold at these places. And if you are interested in seeing more vegan makeup companies, then make sure to check out Cruelty-Free Kitty. They introduced me to many of the vegan products I have listed here, but they have a great compiled list of vegan makeup brands. And now, onto some of the best high end and drugstore vegan makeup brands.

DrugstoreVeganMakeup

HighEndVeganMakeup

5 Things to Use Instead of Wrapping Paper This Christmas

scarf2

As a child my favorite thing about Christmas morning was ripping open my presents. I loved the feel of soft plush bows, satiny ribbons, and crisp new boxes. In fact, when I was three I preferred the boxes my gifts came in instead of the actual gifts. I played with those boxes for hours.

However, I think everyone can agree how satisfying it is to tear off that wrapping paper, but had I known then how bad the gift wrapping paper was I would never have unwrapped my gifts. Now as an adult, buying wrapping paper is so costly for something that’s just going to be thrown away. I’m sure, like my family, this Christmas, after all the wrapping paper is torn off the gifts, you’ll gather up all the paper remains into a trash bag and throw it away. This is such a huge and unnecessary waste. Keep reading to find out how to replace gift wrapping paper with Eco-friendly options that also have multiple uses too.

The tradition of wrapping gifts in paper isn’t a very long one in American history. For most of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th century, gifts were presented in keepsake boxes which brings me to my first recommendation. A keepsake box today can be in the form of a nice storage container. You can find them for under $10 at places like TJMaxx, Ross, or HomeGoods. What’s nice about them is they come in various sizes, artistic designs, and they usually have magnetic top lids. So, after your friend or family member opens their gift they’ll have a great and unique box to use afterwards.

giftboxes1

However, if those boxes aren’t quite your thing my next recommendation can be used for many occasions. You can buy cardboard gift boxes in a bundle for pretty cheap at the dollar Store or online at Amazon. Since they are plain you can reuse them for many occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, etc. If you store them nicely, you can keep using these over and over saving you lots of time and making gift wrapping less of a hassle.

scarf1

If you have a smaller gift, you can try out this next recommendation by also buying a scarf. There are many tutorials on YouTube which demonstrate how to wrap a small gift with a scarf. This is a great idea since the scarf is not only the wrapper but also a bonus gift too!

blanket1

If a scarf is not suitable as a bonus gift, then I also recommend a small blanket, a coffee table cover, or even a table runner to use as the wrapper. These can also be useful in wrapping larger gifts too.

For my last recommendation, I suggest using reusable grocery bags. These are pretty affordable since most only cost between $1-$3. Plus, after Christmas is over you can easily put these into great Eco-friendly use at the grocery store.

I hope this list helps you create some new Christmas traditions that are Eco-friendly without the holiday waste.

Why You Need Vegan Leather in Your Life

MelieBianco2

Leather is a bit of a paradox in that it has a beautiful aesthetic but comes at an ugly cost. I’ve been a vegan for two years now, but just recently, I learned disturbing facts that forever changed my opinion on leather goods. So, prepare to hear the worst, but also prepare to hear how you can change and hopefully prevent this ugly practice.

China is the world’s leading producer of cheap leather, which means that a lot of animals are killed every year to produce purses, gloves, belts, etc. But, what if I were to tell you that dogs make up a large amount of the slaughtered animals to provide cheap leather for you to wear? How does that make you feel to hear that man’s best friend are turned into gloves, belts, and wallets?

According to the Guardian’s report on this issue, “The US banned the importation of dog and cat fur and skin, which is punishable by fines up to $10,000, as part of the Dog and Cat Protection Act of 2000. But distinguishing dog and cat leather from cow, sheep and pig leather is no easy matter, making it possible for unscrupulous manufacturers to pass off leather from dogs as leather from legal animals. A report by the Congressional Research Service shows that in 2014, the US imported $8.5bn in leather articles from China. It is unknown how much of each year’s total might be dog or cat leather.” Essentially, it is almost impossible to discern dog from other animals like lambs or cows. After the leather is tanned and cured they all look alike, and the only way to prove its species is to use a DNA test; and even that might be difficult since hardly any DNA might be left after all the chemicals used to process it.

According to One Green Planet, “the Chinese Leather Industry Association claims that they have no knowledge of dog leather industry, [however] an undercover investigation from PETA showed that this horrific practice is alive and well in the country.” In November 2014, an undercover investigator for People for the Ethical Treatment (PETA) Asia infiltrated one of the slaughterhouses where dogs were being bludgeoned and skinned to be made into leather. According to PETA, “one employee told the investigator that this facility bludgeons and skins 100 to 200 dogs a day.” Just this one facility kills upwards of 200 dogs per day. I’ll let you do the math per week, per month, per year. Now multiply that figure with however many slaughterhouses you think are doing this in China. No matter how you calculate it, the outcome is too high.

There’s no denying it. This is a horribly gruesome practice. There are currently no laws protecting the slaughter of dogs in China since they are considered livestock, not pets. There are also no laws that dictate how the animals (in this case, dogs) are slaughtered. So, many are bludgeoned to death. This made my heart break to hear about this practice, but I cried upon seeing PETA’s undercover footage showing this practice. In that moment, I felt so helpless. Mainly because, this was happening half-way around the world. What could I possibly do?

Well, after researching, I learned that no matter what you think, there is always something you can do to help. In this case, the most effective way to end this horrible practice is to use the power you have with your money. Let your dollars, your economic decisions, speak for you and say no to leather.

I understand that leather has a nice aesthetic look to it, and if you’re like me then you like the way leather looks. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. That’s why I want to share with you these vegan leather purse brands that provide that beautiful leather appeal without the pain and torture of being made from dogs, or any animal for that matter.

Here are my Top 5 Vegan Leather Purse Brands that offer great quality and affordable prices.

  1. Gunas

If you are a fan of the Hermes Birkin bag, then you are in for a treat. Gunas offers a Birkin dupe called Hermit that looks fashionable at around $100.

  1. Urban Expressions

If you are a fan of Chanel boy-bags, then you should check out Urban Expressions Sheena for only $55.

Sheena_UrbanExpressions

  1. Melie Bianco

This L.A. based company offers a great selection of fashionable bags. Be sure to check them out at the end of the season for their sales. I ordered two purses from here because they had their buy one get one free promotion. You can easily find purses in the $35-$70 range, plus free shipping on orders more than $50. Just signing up for their newsletter can get you 50% off your first order.

MelieBianco1

  1. Matt & Nat

This company offers the most variety with the types of bags they have. They are a little bit pricier with bags ranging from $70-$200. However, they also offer vegan leather shoes and belts. I’m in love with their vegan leather boots for Fall.

JolietteBoots_MattandNat

  1. Urban Originals

This is another great brand that sells their bags at retailers like Nordstrom’s and Macy’s, making it easier to find these vegan leather purses in person.

RecklessDestiny_UrbanOriginals

Here are other Brands that are also selling Vegan Leather Purses

  1. Mod Cloth
  2. Free People
  3. Nordstrom
  4. Saks Off 5th

Just make sure to type in “vegan leather” in the search engines on their websites and a lot of results will come up for you.

But if want a high-end fashion bag, well there’s also an option there for you. Stella McCartney only sells vegan-leather products. So, you’ll never find any real leather, feathers, or fur at her store, which is awesome!

So, just remember that the cost of cheap leather from China is a lot higher than you might think. But, you don’t have to let any dogs, or any animal for that matter, die for your fashion. All you need is vegan leather in your life. And with every dollar spent on this material, you help drive the economic push towards sustainable fashion without ending a single life. Hopefully, someday soon, the practice of killing dogs for leather goods will be outdated and gone forever.

Further resources and works cited

  1. Kearney, Lauren. “Could Your Purse Be Made Out of Dog Skin? The Truth Behind the Dog Leather Industry.” One Green Planet, 12 Apr. 2015, onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/the-truth-behind-the-dog-leather-industry/.
  2. Weissman, Alanna. “Is Your Leather from China? It Might Be Made of Dog or Cat Skin.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 31 July 2016, theguardian.com/business/2016/jul/31/dog-cat-leather-china-us-congress-trade-peta.
  3. “Dogs Bludgeoned and Killed in Leather Industry.” PETA Investigations, PETA, https://investigations.peta.org/china-dog-leather/.

Affordable & Chic Back to School Supplies

DSC_5003

At the end of every August I feel the start of the new school year. Maybe it’s because I was a student for so long. But August, the start of a new school year, feels like the beginning of a new year. Forget January – August is my new year, my time of the year where I need a little reboot.

And with this reset, this new start, I like to find good deals on some very-much-needed supplies. I used to get back to school supplies as a student, but now I buy supplies at this time of year to restock my personal office.

IMG_20170813_190635

DSC_5028

My favorite place to go for both stylish and affordable school supplies is the Dollar Store. I got these adorable holographic writing notebooks, these planning journals with beautiful, chic designs and inspirational quotes on them, as well as packs of pens and pencils. At only $1 for each notebook and each pack, it’s a great deal! Plus, there are a ton of designs and styles if these don’t quite fit your personal taste.

IMG_20170813_190753

And my biggest steal was this iMac computer. I bought this computer for only $50 using he app OfferUp. It’s an older Mac desktop, sure. But I wanted a desktop for my office work without having to pay hundreds of dollars for it. So, I thought about looking for a gently used one that’s been refurbished and/or updated. So, when picking out this computer, I checked if he specs were listed as well (see end of post for a checklist of what to look for in a listing) because I wanted to deal with someone whose familiar with the technology and I wanted to make sure that this older computer was updated to the newer systems. All an older computer needs are updated specs and it’ll run just fine.

DSC_5049

My seller, Tom, was an amazing gentleman who let me try it out (running online searches, opening documents, etc.) before buying it. All I did was simply ask if I could try it and out he more than gladly complied. Another plus about this purchase was that the mouse and keyboard were also included in the sale. When I took it home, all I had to do was buff out previous scruffs left behind from stickers and voila this computer was like brand new.

Turned out, this computer belonged to Tom’s granddaughter and he wanted to sell it at bottom line just to get rid of it. And like I had guess from his listing, Tom was a tech guy. He had been in tech before retiring and now he buys faulty computers for cheap prices, refurbishes them, and sells them at low prices. No hidden gimmicks or anything, just a retiree with a hobby/side-job.

IMG_20170813_190825

So, not only did I get a great deal for a nice desktop, I got to meet the guy who made/re-made it. How cool is that? And he’s not the only one doing this. You can easily look on OfferUp and see if anyone near you does this as well. Buying used electronics is such a good, positive step forward environmentally. Electronics don’t always get recycle and can end up in landfills. So, when you can, try using an older, working electronic. Like momma always told me, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Or, in this case, “If it is broken, just fix it up.”

If you don’t feel comfortable testing electronics like I did, then try meeting in a public place (like Starbucks) and bring along someone you know who is tech savvy (I brought my husband).

Here is a checklist to help you feel more confident about buying a used computer.

Some things to look for and to ask when buying used computers

  • Does it have integrated WIFI or does it need an Ethernet cord?
  • What is its Operating System (OS)?
  • Does it have/include programs you need, like Word, Excel, etc.?
  • Does it include accessories (keyboard/mouse)?
  • Was the computer reset to manufacturer’s settings?

So, make sure to be smart this school year and find great deals and steals to help kick start a brand new school (or work) year for you.

Thrift-Giving for Mother’s Day

mothersday3

With Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday (here in the US), all we hear on the radio and TV is how we have to buy our mothers something special in order to show her how much we appreciate her. But, do we really need to merit our appreciation for our mothers with a dollar value?

Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of spare change in my household, especially not enough to buy my mother the expensive items advertised on TV. And you know what? That’s very unfair to a child, to make that child feel incompetent because they can’t show their appreciation for their mother through materialistic means. Of course, you can always make your mom a gift, which is what I did for many years.

Now that I’m older and have a little money to spare, I want to buy my mom a nice gift. However, I also want to be consciousness about it though. I don’t want to contribute to the ever-growing fast fashion industry that horribly ruins the environment and workers’ lives. And I still can’t afford those flashy, expensive gifts advertised in the media for jewelry and department stores.

So, what’s a girl to do? Well, I decided to go to my go-to – thrifting. I checked out my local Goodwill and walked around with my husband hoping to see something that screamed “Mom” – and luckily enough, I also helped my husband find a gift for his mother too.

mothersday

Here’s a little outfit I put together under $10 for my mom. She lives in Florida, so a light-weight, flowy dress and a pair of sandals are very comfortable and fitting to her lifestyle.

I love the cinched-in waistline on this emerald green dress. It’s flattering for most body shapes and the extra space up top is roomy enough for women who need more space there. And I think this dark green will compliment my mom’s brown eyes. The faux-leather sandals have a sleek gold trim all the way around, which I think nicely pairs with the dress. I must admit though, there was a tiny chunk of the gold trim missing, so I simply filled in the scratched-up space with a gold sharpie and – voila – the shoe was fixed up. Now, it looks almost brand new.

mothersday2

Now, I know you can’t always find clothing and shoes for your mother (due to various sizes and what’s available in stock), but here’s what you can find instead. Most Goodwill’s have a book section. So, for my mother-in-law, my husband picked out his favorite books. I think it’s a touching gift to give someone a favorite book of yours, to share with them something you fell in love with. But, what I think is so special about this gift for Mother’s Day is, chances are, your mother was the one who taught you how to read. So, it’s nice that she taught you how to read and now you can share the gift she gave you by showing her your favorite reads.

mothersday4

Here, my husband found a complete Sherlock Holmes anthology (his favorite) and I picked out The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (two of my favorite books). My mother-in-law is an avid reader, so this was a fitting gift for her.

So, don’t worry about finding the most perfect or the most expensive gift for your mother. Just focus on giving something you think your mother will most enjoy. And by thrifting, you’ll often find it’s cheaper than buying something at the mall and you can feel good about reusing and recycling items instead of letting them rot in a landfall.

I hope you enjoy Mother’s Day and are lucky enough to spend it with your mother.

Think Pink for Summer

THINKPINK

This Spring, pink is the prominent color of fashion. But not just any pink – a light, airy, blush of pink is this year’s favored color. And as spring turns into summer, I predict pink will not be going anywhere. In fact, I think the fashion palette that you’ll see everywhere in stores is going to resemble very closely to a summer sunset with various shades of that blush pink with hints of gold and orange.

The thing about fashion though, is that these trends are swiftly changing. And with fast fashion chucking clothes out at an unprecedented rate, sometimes I hesitate to be swept up by these trends because I don’t want to buy something that I won’t wear frequently and, ultimately, I don’t want to contribute to the poor labor laws that enables fast fashion and the textile waste that impacts the environment very drastically. If you are interested in learning more about the impact of fast fashion, I highly recommend watching the documentary The True Cost which is available to watch on Netflix. Or if you don’t have a Netflix account, click here to watch Real Stories’ undercover investigative documentary which exposes the horrible conditions workers endure at fast fashion sweatshops.

THINKPINK_1

If you want to be a conscientious fashionista, then I recommend buying used clothing. Not only does this help environmentally with recycling already made fabrics, it can also help people in your community through your purchases if you buy from organizations like Goodwill.  Or if you prefer a vintage style, you can also buy at thrift stores or boutiques which will help local, small businesses thrive in your community. Wherever you choose to buy your used clothing, you can easily recreate today’s fashion trends with clothing that is already made. And this pink trend is one that you and I can easily jump on board since it is just a simple color palette instead of some crazy pattern or some design that is risky or uncomfortable.

The gold and pink combination is my favorite at the moment since it brings out the femininity of spring and summer as well as making anyone instantly look elegant and well-dressed. This light-pink blouse is one that I already owned for four years. And just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s lost its quality or appeal. I love the color block design this shirt has with pink as the prominent color with a pop of sandy-brown and burnt-orange that compliments the flaps and sleeves.

THINKPINK_2

Here, you can see I paired the blouse with this amazing gold skirt I found at my local Goodwill for only $3. What a steal! This beautiful skirt has a subtle floral pattern which is also trending right now. And even though it is used, the stitching on this skirt truly showcases its great quality, which makes me happy knowing this skirt will last me years to come.

thinkpink6

And to finish the look, I paired the outfit with some simple wedges that I’d already owned for five years. These shoes were not cheap, however, they are super comfortable and durable as they have lasted me this long and are still in good condition.

To me fashion is all about creativity and reinventing yourself by simply dressing yourself in something new. And I love how in doing that fashion makes me feel confident and beautiful, but I believe it’s important to be aware of the impact fast fashion has on the world, impacting the environment as well as worker’s lives. By buying used clothing, you can afford to try more trends and be creatively expressive through your fashion while also being a mindful fashionista. And that’s something that will always be trendy for years to come.