More Upcycling Ideas from Pinterest

If I wasn’t careful, I could literally spend hours a day scrolling through Pinterest. There are so many beautiful pictures and amazing ideas on there!

I have a Board for DIY and Upcycling ideas (you can follow me at HemingwayLove.) And, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite upcycling projects in case you’re getting ready for a new wardrobe, or want to projects to work on for back to school!

1. Men’s Shirt Upcycled Into a Dress

If you have sewing skills, call me because I want to make this! You can see the original dress here on Pinterest.

Wouldn’t this amazing dress look cute with some white Converse, and one of our fair trade bags? I think our Sunflower Backpack would look great paired with this dress.

2. Added Lace

First, look at this incredible shirt here on Pinterest.

Ok, next, this is actually a Free People shirt. But the design is amazing and I think it gives all of us lots of ideas on how we could update and upcycle our thermals to make them more feminine and interesting. I think this shirt would look perfect with our Lace Hobo Bag.

3. Create an Apron

You can find this incredible apron here.

Isn’t this apron gorgeous! To me, I could never wear something like this in the kitchen. I think this apron would work best as a type of dress, with a plain colored short-sleeved blouse underneath, and colored tights or skinny jeans. I think this upcycled apron would pair best with our own Recycled Sari Bag.

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Fair Trade Pre-Fall Bags

Right now, it’s the middle of July. We’re in the apex of summer, at a time when lightening bugs still hold sway, thunderstorms roll through in the afternoons to freshen things up, and you spend more time barefooted than you do wearing shoes. This time of year is full of lazy picnics, tree swings, open windows, and bright hippy dresses.

So, why on earth am I about to write about fall? Well, because as I’ve been trolling around on my favorite fashion and lifestyle blogs, I’ve started to see whisperings of September. Color pallets are getting a little darker; bags are getting a bit bigger; boots are replacing sandals and Converse, and photo shoots are taking place during rainy afternoons rather than a bright sunny morning.

I thought it would be fun to start my own whisperings and highlight a few of our newest fair trade bags that I think are perfect for early fall.

1. Rugged Weathered Hobo Bag

Our Rugged Weathered Hobo Bag is perfect for fall. The shape is perfect for edge, fall afternoons, and the warm brown matches with the leaves as they go from green to the warm tones of red, brown, yellow, and orange.

2. Lace Hobo Bag

I know I just highlighted our Lace Hobo Bag yesterday. But really, what’s not to love? It’s a perfect bag for early fall, and I couldn’t leave it out.

3. Green Mesh Bag

Our Green Mesh Bag is a bit more formal looking than many of our other bags. But this is part of its appeal.

4. Recycled Bike Tire Tube Hobo

Our Recycled Bike Tire Tube Hobo just looks like it’s ready for fall. The black bike tire tubes gives this bag an edgy look, and the colors are great for early fall.

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Fair Trade Travel Bags

I love travelling. I love packing just the bare necessities into a few bags and setting off to a new place.

Travelers often go through a predictable dilemma. If you pack super light you don’t have to lug around a bunch of heavy carry-on bags. But packing light also means that you’re missing several items that will make your flight more comfortable.

You can choose to carry a larger bag, but this can turn into a trial when you have to unload practically everything at security. However, it means you have all your necessaries for a comfortable trip.

So what camp do you fall into? Personally, when I travel I take a bare minimum of clothing; usually only a backpack’s full (even if I’m gone for two weeks.) I’ll carry a hobo-style bag for the flight itself. And I’ll pack a super small purse for my day-to-day walking around where ever I’m going.

If I were headed on a trip, these are some of our newest bags I would take along.

1. Lace Hobo

I love our new Lace Hobo bag. This is the kind of bag that makes a perfect carry-on bag. There’s room for a sweater (because every plane is an icebox,) a bottle of water, a great book, some lotion (because the average humidity on a plane is drier than the Sahara Desert — that’s not an exaggeration,) an iPod or tablet, and your wallet.

I also love the style and coloring of this bag; it’s like a gypsy carpet bag!

2. Four Zip Passport Bag

Our new Four Zip Passport Bags are perfect for travel because they’re big enough for the bare essentials, but small enough so that they don’t get too heavy when you’re walking around for hours in a new city.

Travel tip: It’s always best to travel with a purse that has a long strap like this. You should always wear the purse cross-body (rather than just hanging off your shoulder) so that thieves can run by and snatch it. Another way they do this is to zip past on a moped or scooter and grab bags. So, purses with long straps are a must-have when you travel.

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New Favorite Eco-Shopping Site: Lydali

This week I stumbled onto an eco and ethical shopping site that I am now madly in love with. The site is Lydali. And I can show you, in pictures, what they stand for.

Put simply, Lydali pulls together artisans from all over the world and promises them a fair wage for the beautiful items they produce. Pretty much what we’re trying to do here at Earth Divas, only we’re focusing intently on two areas: India and Nepal.

Lydali’s artisans are all over the word. There’s a wonderful map that I pulled from their website that shows where their artisans are located.

So, what does Lydali carry? Lovely things. I’m going to highlight their scarves because a) I love them and b) it’s summer and everyone needs a light and breezy summer scarf.

Isn’t this scarf gorgeous? It’s their Green and Orange Kantha Scarf. It’s made from recycled saris in Dhaka, Bangladesh. What I love about Lydali is that every product has a story, and you can read about the people, co-op, or organization who makes each product. For example, here’s the bio of the organization making this scarf:

Basha’s house of hope is a small business based in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka with a mission to help women who have little status and are living in poverty have a better life. Basha trains a number of women to turn their talent to making jewelry and beautiful Kantha throws and bedspreads, helping to provide them with reliable jobs and incomes.

This organization sounds like several that we support here at Earth Divas.

My other favorite scarf is actually called just that: Secret Favorite Scarf.

Here’s the bio about this scarf:

This Ethiopian cotton scarf is so awesome that it will soon become your not-so-secret favorite scarf. Woven by women artisans in Ethiopia, it’ll quickly become one of your favorite pieces to wear and share the story behind.

So, you get the picture. Lydali carries wonderful products that are fairly traded and ethically sourced. Their bag and jewelry section will make you swoon. So please, go support this wonderful business!

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Fair Trade, Recycled Shopping Bags

It was a hard habit to develop, but I’m finally at the point where I remember my reusable shopping bags almost every time I go to the store. And, I love to see that I’m not the only one. It seems like the people bringing reusable bags are almost equal to the people using plastic.

That’s wonderful progress for the environment because plastic bags can take 500 to 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill. When they escape out of the garbage the get stuck in trees, posing a deadly hazard to birds and other wildlife. And they’re just unsightly to look out.

The fewer plastic bags we use, the better!

Here at Earth Divas, we offer a number of reusable shopping bags that I love. Here’s our newest shopping bag, which is a fair trade bag made from recycled rice bags.

How to Remember Your Reusable Shopping Bags

Like I said, I used to forget my shopping bags all the time. Here’s how I made a habit out of grabbing my bags.

1. Keep Them In Sight

“Out of sight, out of mind” is true for a reason. If you don’t see your bags, you’re probably going to forget them, at least until it becomes a habit. When I started using eco-friendly shopping bags, I bought a large one that I really enjoyed looking at, and stuffed all the others inside. I then hung that large shopping bag in my kitchen.

It became a work of art that brightened up the wall. And I always saw it while I was making my grocery list.

You can also keep your reusable shopping bags in your car. This one can be harder to start doing because as soon as you unload your groceries, you have to remember to take your bags right back out to your car for next time. I tried this, but I was more successful hanging my bag inside my kitchen.

2. Keep a Bag In Your Purse

You’ve probably seen those thin nylon bags that ball up really small, and are stored inside a thin sack. These are about the size of an egg, and they are perfect for keeping in your purse (especially if you have one of our new Hobo Bags with tons of room!)

I need to get one of these for those times that I pop into the store when I didn’t expect to. I’m always caught without a reusable bags during these times, and one of those tiny ones would work out perfect.

How do you remember to take your reusable bags? I’d love to hear your tips and strategies in the comments!

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Bright and Colorful Hobo Bags

Despite all the writing I’ve done on our new summer bags, I’m still not done! We have a beautiful line of bright and colorful hobo bags that are perfect for early summer. To me, the lines and designs of these bags are very much inspired by modern-day India. I can imagine that our artisans in India and Nepal had great fun putting together these bags!

Here are some of my favorites.

1. Bright Green Floral

I love our Bright Green Floral Bag because it’s so alive. These colors just pop

2. Purple Floral Hobo

Our Purple Floral Hobo is a beautiful bag. The purple is deep and rich, and the contrast of the green really makes this bag come alive. This particular style also comes in green and stonewash, which you can see below.

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Fair Trade USA’s New Labeling — Confusing and Wrong

Imagine picking up a box of brownie mix that is labeled fair trade. This is a purchase that you can feel good about, right?

Well, that’s a puzzling question to consider. What if you knew that the sugar, milk, and flour in the mix, the three ingredients that make up the largest percentage of the brownie, were not fair trade at all? You might wonder why it was even carrying the fair trade label. I know I would.

This situation might soon become a reality. Fair Trade USA is considering changing its requirements for what’s labeled fair trade, and what isn’t.

Under the new policy (which has not been approved yet,) foods will only need 20% fair trade ingredients to be labeled as “fair trade.” Other labeling organizations require a threshold of at least 50% to be labeled “fair trade.” Of course, only products that use 100% fair trade ingredients will carry the “Fair Trade Certified” label.

The reason for this drastic change in policy is because some companies have a difficult time sourcing fair trade ingredients for certain mixed foods. The brownie example is a good one. Most brownie mixes, fair trade or not, use milk, flour, and sugar produced domestically. This means that there’s no chance, according to FTUSA’s perspective, that those crops were produced under exploitative conditions.

Allowing a 20% benchmark for fair trade ingredients means that more companies will hop on the fair trade bandwagon, and not let major ingredients like flour, milk, or sugar (all crops produced domestically here in the US,) get in the way of their efforts to source other fair ingredients in order to achieve that label.

According to this press release, “FTUSA will not require a minority percentage disclosure that could inform consumers and remedy the deception that the seal otherwise conveys that the product is majority fair trade.”

What This Means for Fair Trade Suppliers

Here’s what all this means. It means that a Hershey Bar, which uses only 20%-30% fair trade ingredients, will now be able to compete on the same shelf, in the same stores, as chocolate bars that use 100% fair trade ingredients. Because Hershey is using cheaper ingredients, sourced from cheap suppliers, their chocolate bar is going to be less expensive than the fair trade chocolate bar.

I strongly believe that FTUSA is going in the wrong direction with this new policy. Not only are they lowering the standards of fair trade, standards they’ve tried to promote since the creation of their organization, but they’re putting fair trade suppliers at a distinct disadvantage. They’re allowing gigantic corporations to slap a fair trade label on products that aren’t really fair trade at all.

This means fewer sales for small, fair trade suppliers, and more confused customers who might increasingly become disillusioned with the principles of fair trade.

This new policy also puts farmers at a disadvantage. Companies will no longer have to work at establishing connections and relationships with fair trade sugar or flour producers. This means less business overall for these growers.

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Lessons From Bangladesh: The High Cost of Cheap Clothes

Photo Courtesy NPR: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/04/24/178772697/dozens-killed-in-collapse-of-bangladesh-garment-complex

Several weeks ago in Bangladesh, an overcrowded garment factory collapsed in the middle of a work day, killing over 1,100 workers. I remember that in the days and weeks following the tragedy, that number kept climbing. And as it climbed, my anger, heartbreak, and frustration climbed as well.

A tragedy like this is always senseless. All these people didn’t have to die. Had building inspectors done their job, had companies focused more on safety and less on profits, had government officials been less corrupt, these garment workers could have been working in a safe, uplifting environment, instead of a dangerous, overcrowded deathbox.

What’s most disheartening is that this tragedy has done nothing to change the working conditions in Bangladesh. A few more US clothing companies signed safety agreements, a few petitions were signed by the public, and then, we all moved one. It’s done nothing to whet our appetite for cheap clothing. Garment exports from Bangladesh were up 12% in May, a total of $19 billion.

US clothing manufacturers account for 23% of Bangladesh clothing exports. While all of us can’t go over there and demand safer conditions for these workers, we can make a difference by reducing this percentage. We can choose to purchase clothes that are made ethically and responsibly. We can choose to buy products that are fairly traded and sustainably produced. We can shop consciously.

I know how easy it is to walk into Target, Wal-Mart, Pacific Sunware, JC Penny, or any other large retailer who sells “cheap” clothing, see something I like, and buy it. I’ve done it plenty of times, just like everyone has. The problem is that doing this means I’m probably supporting a business that violates basic human rights. I’m supporting businesses like the one who owned the building in Bangladesh…the one who make sure the fire exits were blocked and that workers spent 12-16 hours per day huddled over a sewing machine in overcrowded rooms.

There are many wonderful and amazing things about globalization. But one of the tragedies is that we’ve become desensitized to the people on the other end of the product we’re buying — the people who risk their lives every day just so we can purchase a t-shirt for $6.99.

Yes, fair trade goods are sometimes more expensive than their mass-made counterparts. Yes, sometimes you have to go out of your way to find them. But fair trade is fair. Fair trade means the person who made that product didn’t have to put their life at risk to feed their family just so you could have something wonderful.

When you shop fair trade, you can help make sure another Bangladesh doesn’t happen. It might seem like a very small and insignificant act. But when one person buys fair trade, and another person buys fair trade, our collective efforts can make a big impact. It can save lives.

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Elegant and Stylish Fair Trade Bags

Many of our new bags are perfect for summer. They’re made with poppy, bright colors, and have shapes and lines that are more at home at a music festival than the office or a night out on the town.

However, not all of our new bags are like a summer afternoon; we have several bags that are understated, elegant, and perfect for an quiet evening out with friends or family. Here are a few of my favorites.

1. Black Shoulder Bag

Our elegant Black Shoulder Bag has beautiful lines and curves that make it a perfect evening or office bag. It’s understated and classy…two adjectives that never go out of style.

2. Flower Hobo Handbag

Although our Flower Hobo Bag is still technically in the hobo style, this particular bag is trimmed down and better suited as a work or evening bag. I love the crochet-style straps and trim at the top. Our new Flower Hobo bags come in several colors; I also love the olive green, which you can see below.

3. Recycled Silk and Bike Tire Tube Shoulder Bag

I love our Pink Recycled Silk and Bike Tire Tube Bag. The recycled tire tubes do add an air of fun, sustainability and informality to this bag, but I think the recycled pink silk balances this out nicely. This bag has is elegant and edgy, and it’s one of my favorites!

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Growing Industrial Hemp Here in the US is a Good Idea

Did you know that hemp was one of the earliest domesticated crops in the world?

Here in the States, hemp was a mandatory crop at the Jamestown colony. However, it’s banned now, which is kind of ironic because our Declaration of Independence was actually drafted on hemp paper.

This ban is also a shame because hemp is an amazing plant that could solve a lot of our budget woes (one more thing to export, one less thing to import, and a whole new industry to be taxed.) The hemp industry just here in the States is valued at $500 million and growing. If we grew hemp here, and awareness about this amazing crop developed, this value would surely skyrocket.

One common misconception about hemp is that it’s the same as marijuana. This simply isn’t true. Hemp and marijuana are two distinctly separate species. Hemp is not a drug, and it won’t make you high if you smoke it. This erroneous misconception is the reason why lawmakers banned its cultivation back in the early 1970s, and why it’s still banned today.

There was a wonderful article in Forbes about the advantages of growing hemp here in the US. And I agree with the author…it would be a win-win for everyone.

Hemp: The Wonder Crop

Hemp is a wonder crop; just one acre of hemp will produce as much fibrous material as three acres of cotton. This means you get a lot more bang for your buck farming this plant. It’s naturally resistent to common pests, is stronger and softer than cotton, and will not mildew. And, unlike cotton, hemp needs a minimal amount of water and will grow in all 50 states.

Another amazing thing about hemp is the wide variety of products you can make with it. According to some sources, you can make over 25,000 products using hemp. I doubt there’s another material on earth with such a wide variety of uses.

  • Clothing, bags, and purses (as we all know too well here at Earth Divas!)
  • Plastic substitutes (Ford even made any early automobile prototype from hemp)
  • Foods (Hemp can be used to make tofu, butter, ice cream, flour, milk, etc.)
  • Paints and varnishes.
  • Fiberboard and paper.
  • Fuel.

I could go on forever. It’s astonishing how versatile, strong, and useful the hemp plant is. And it’s sad that our farmers, and our country, is missing out on a lucrative and environmentally friendly cash-crop.

All of us here at Earth Divas love hemp. We use it to make many of our bags and purses, and we love it because it’s so environmentally friendly. Our hemp bags can be composted safely!

The good news is that the tide is slowly starting to shift for hemp. Awareness is growing, and many grassroots organizations are starting to pressure lawmakers to approve the growth of this wonderful crop. Hopefully, within the next ten years, hemp might be a respected crop just like corn, soybeans, and cotton are now.

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