Category Archives: Holiday Shopping

Conscientious Find! Pura Vida Bracelets

It has been great to observe the shifting landscape in consumer products.  Whether driven by millennials or further awareness from a general audience perspective, I have observed more options representing concepts such as Fair Trade, Eco-Responsibility, or Advocacy.

Last week I stumbled across Pura Vida Bracelets.  With full disclosure, I was looking for eco-friendly and conscientious products to affiliate with. While doing so, I was pleased to find this conscientious product line. At first, I wasn’t really sure it was the type of product for me or any of my friends and family.  However, then I realized all the advocacy options they offer and a greater connection was made.

It is absolutely worth it to share within my circle!  Starting at only $5/item, the company offers hand-, artisan-made bracelets from Costa Rica.  The “charity” options, Pura Vida’s Charity Collection, represent a wide range of advocacy from health causes to environmental conservation.

There is a club option with “surprise packs” each month.  You can also enter your e-mail address for 10% off your first purchase, refer a friend for a $10 merchandise credit, or take advantage of seasonal promotions.
 
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While gift giving is still top of mind, consider Pura Vida Bracelets for your loved ones.

Shop all of Pura Vida’s Bracelet Collections

Homemade Gift Option for the Holidays

If you are like me, shopping is more of a chore than anything and it can be especially cumbersome around winter holidays.

I am, however, 100% in advocacy of artisans, especially those with conscientious product offerings.

You may have read (or selectively skimmed) my holiday guides for 2016 & 2015.  The truth is, I build these over the course of the year through findings from travels, festivals, personal introductions, or other various outings.  Otherwise, I would have several solid hours of blog time in one sitting!

This year, I have been extremely fortunate to have a holiday pop up shop for Chicago Fair Trade open right down the block from me.  I am also seeing a trend of festivals, such as the Renegade Craft Fair series.

For those of you who may not have this sort of thing in your areas, I was also recently introduced to Homemade Gifts on Amazon (note, as an affiliate).  This is the first I had seen that Amazon was even doing this sort of thing.  I assume this is a bit of market competition with Etsy and I plan to research into the back end of things to see if I can learn a little more about which one actually is better for artisan sellers.

However, in the meantime, I thought it was worth a suggestion and certainly better than a lot of the “muck” out there in holiday retail world.  It is also great that they organize into “her” and “him” and/or filter by state.

As the days of this year’s holiday season count down, I hope this helps in some way!

Shop Handmade – Gifts for Her

Shop Handmade – Gifts for Him

2016 Holiday List!

2016 Holiday Suggestions

If you were following me in 2015, you may have seen my last holiday list.  The linked text will take you to the post.

This year, I have a few updates and new finds to share.  Similar to last year, my focus is primarily on small, locally oriented vendors with passion, personal connection, and value-focus to their product lines.  As you may already know, I’m a person driven by practices, so, of course, “eco-friendly” considerations are made.  I also share a few practical gift ideas that can help people in living their healthiest lives.

Give the Gift of Nutrition

Selfish plug here, but I am now a representative for the JuicePlus+ and TowerGarden company.  I am also a huge fan of recipe shares, food baskets, gifting a produce share, or simply sharing a significant dish.  Last year, I also recommended organic, non-GMO seeds.  It takes a little digging to find organic vendors (typically a “seed bank”), but many of them operate online.  I have used SeedsNow a handful of times, including for additions to wedding gift baskets.

Essential Oils

The applications for essential oils are immense; aromatherapy, medicinal, personal hygiene, and household cleaning, to name a few.  Good ones don’t come cheap, however.  If you are looking for a resourceful, yet indulgent gift, consider essential oils.  It takes a little research into quality standards, but you won’t regret the knowledge gained from exploring this path

I’m keeping this one on the list this year, only I’m providing a new suggestion for where to purchase.  I would highly recommend checking out Mountain Rose Herbs for their oils.  My mom introduced them to me and I have since found them reviewed by several health and wellness blogs.  They are consistently highly recommended.  Another small, local oriented company I recommended last year is Town & Anchor.  Their products will be finished formulas for a variety of body care needs.

***Bonus to Mountain Rose Herbs, they are also a great resource for bulk organic spices and offer a scaled shipping discount based on lbs ordered.

Storage

I still stand by this as a solid suggestion.  It can be very helpful for many people on your holiday list and is also a less expensive option which is ideal for shoppers on a budget.

Mason Jars – beyond traditional canning, there are so many uses for these.  They are great for storage, salad jars on the go, fermented foods, smoothies or lemon water, and personal care products.  Most craft stores sell lids with pumps for lotions or liquid soaps.  Even better, the price point is low.  With the versatility of these jars, the value is clear.  Plus, they come in a few different colors.  A ribbon or holiday trim can easily be tied around the lid for a simple, festive presentation.

Stackable Kitchen Storage – there are several options for this, but I have purchased from World Market.

Other Unique Home Goods & Finds

Do you know what a certified B corporation is?  I hope you do, but if not, I linked the text for further information.  The notion has been slower in progress in certain states, but is catching some momentum.  This year I found a cleaning product company, Meliora Cleaning Products, that is operating under this framework.  Environmental sensitivities are becoming a greater burden for the healthy livelihood of many people.  Therefore, having options such as this can really be helpful, especially if the recipient is under time crunches for making their own.

North Coast Organics, which I have under beauty and personal care is also a certified B-corporation.  Other well-known names that are B-corps include klean kanteen (what another great gift option), patagonia, seventh generation, King Arthur Flour, and The Honey Co.

The Sweet Side

There are a ton of sugar-sweetened products on the market, but only a few earn my vote.  Typically, I am looking for low sugar content (if any added sugars are used at all) and additive free, such as no gluten, dairy, or soy.  The reality is that good food products, especially those of specialty nature, often don’t come cheap.

People love to give chocolate at the holidays.  In my presentations, I tell patients/clients that I still eat chocolate…  only the good stuff!  There are two new chocolate finds in my arsenal.  1)  Taza Chocolate; I highly recommend their dark, stone ground options, particularly the jalapeno offering.  2)  tabal chocolate; which is small batch, organic, and fair-trade.  For them, my favorite was the Bolivia 70% Coffee, but none were bad, ha!

I also found a brand new honey company, Brood Honey, (which is a subsidiary of Worker B) that has a unique product for market…  honey aged in brewing barrels!  Currently they offer bourbon, cabernet, & tequila.  They then return the barrels to the brewers who can then use them for more interesting brews.  It’s a beautiful up-cycle usage of the barrels.  I would recommend the tequila.

If you are looking for wine, I have just started collecting a list of those that are eco- and sustainable in their practices.  I learned from a wine vendor that producers can do everything organic until the final step, which I think is adding the tannins, yet still cannot carry the USDA organic label. Although I’m still learning, it’s good to know that there is a spectrum of options.  I like the Boisset Collection because it embodies the eco-friendly practices, but also helps support people with financial reward through a distributor model.  Here is the link for one of the reps I know; https://my.boissetcollection.com/21vintage.

Finally, I came across an artisan tea company from the Southern U.S., Piper & Leaf Artisan Tea Co.  Why is this relevant???  They have figured out how to combine certain herbs and flowering plants, without additives, into combinations that taste very sweet.  Genius!  I cringe at the amount of refined white sugar that goes into southern sweet tea.  Now there is a solution.  Many of the brews I sampled were too sweet for me so I think for the southern sweet tea lover on your list, this is a health conscious option not to be ignored.  I did find the Chocola-tea and Summertime Chai, were o.k. for my liking.  They also offer limited time seasonal options.

Beauty, Personal Care, & Eco-friendly

The list of chemicals in traditional cosmetics is alarming and even more concerning is how “toxic” we are in industrialized countries.  Therefore, I keep these suggestions as staple suggestions as well!

Oxalis Apothecary – a new find for this year’s list.  Their underlying mission is to focus on “plant to body”.  Similar to “farm to table” in eating, they feel this brings the same notion to beauty care products.  I am also somewhat biased because the creator, Erin Wexstten, is from Southern Illinois.

Worker B – another new find who manages their own beehives and rely on organic practices.  Also, check out their Brood Honey line (under sweet side).

North Coast Organics – check them out of products such as deodorant and lip balms.  Promo code (which is hopefully still relevant) is 15OFF.

Beautycounter – sold through independent consultants, the products are developed to avoid approximately 1,500 chemicals that have either unsafe or inconclusive evidence of safety.  The company also takes a proactive approach educate consumers on cosmetic ingredients, not just sell product.  I was specifically touched by the back side of their business cards in which a “never list” of ingredients to avoid is printed.

Biba Lips – founded with a focus on glamour without less preferred ingredients, such as parabens, synthetics, or artificial fragrances.  “Biba” translates to a beautiful woman both inside and out.  The lip color line is beautifully crafted with botanicals centered on nourishing qualities and packaged in a gold-toned mirrored compact.

Bonnie – handcrafted in Chicago, Bonnie equals more than just lip balm.  The line includes facial masks, lotions & body serums, and natural perfumes.  Even better, the labeling is artistic and fully designed by the owner.  Hello stocking stuffer!

Smart Handbags

I still love PoCampo as an option and they have a few patterns this year.  These tactfully made bags are not just attractive and eye-catching, they are incredibly resourceful.  Tailored to incorporate our mobile device driven world with an on-the-go lifestyle, their designs are weather-proof and perfect for all commuter types; bike, transit, or car.

Spirits, Botanicals, Brews, & Accessories

Again, I caught up with the Strongwater folks this year.  I still love this as a viable option, especially if you want something a little nicer and crafty.  Certainly keep craft brewers and distilleries, preferably organic, on the list.  Another option I came across this year is The Bitter Housewife from Portland, Oregon.

Mom-made Fashions

This final entry is also a repeat from last year, but she is worth a duplicate plug!  Melissa, the mastermind behind Sew Like My Mom, offers a unique option especially for those on your list with young children.  From what started as a hobby making colorful patterned handbags, and synergistic to her life as a mother, she has grown her business from crafty, homemade designs to the development of her own line of children’s clothing patterns.

***Watch for her four adorable children in her images and product marketing.

A Holiday List

2015 Holiday Suggestions

When I started pulling my materials together for this late last month, I didn’t realize how comprehensive my list would end up.  Flipping through my collection of business cards, it turns out that I was introduced to quite a few new products over the last year including those offered from small, locally oriented vendors with passion, personal connection, and value-focus to their product lines.

Gift giving practices will vary from person to person, but my hope is for those making purchases this holiday season, that “consumer vote” will support some of these great products and services.  With “eco-friendly” and “shop small” concepts in mind, a few of my favorite new 2015 finds as well as some old stand-by options are included in this suggestion list:

Essential Oils

The applications for essential oils are immense; aromatherapy, medicinal, personal hygiene, and household cleaning, to name a few.  Good ones don’t come cheap, however.  If you are looking for a resourceful, yet indulgent gift, consider essential oils.

A few classic, reliable vendors include doTerra or Young Living, but there are certainly others worth considering.  It takes a little research into quality standards, but you won’t regret the knowledge gained from exploring this path.

Earlier this year, I met a bright representative of Young Living at an eco-friendly beauty event and learned all about Thieves’ Blend, which comes with a historical story.  It is pretty well accepted that 15th-century French thieves used the blend to cover the inner side of their masks, due to its antibacterial properties, when entering households affected by the plague.  Despite its controversial past, it is still highly revered today.

There was a raffle associated with the event and I was fortunate enough to win a bottle of Young Living Thieves’ Blend household multi-purpose cleaner formula.  So far, it has been fantastic to use.  Not only is it quite remarkable how well it works, it smells great.  It is a much better choice as compared to synthetically “scented” household cleaner formulas.

Finally, if you are looking for finished formulas for a variety of body care, check out Town & Anchor.

Storage

My family does an annual game that falls somewhere between white elephant and naughty Santa.  Anything from gently used to brand new can be included as one’s entry as long as newly purchased items don’t exceed a high price point.  Last year storage items, particularly those for the kitchen, seemed to be the most frequently stolen and chit-chatted over throughout the game.

Mason Jars – beyond traditional canning, there are so many uses for these.  They are great for storage, salad jars on the go, fermented foods, smoothies or lemon water, and personal care products.  Most craft stores sell lids with pumps for lotions or liquid soaps.  Even better, the price point is low.  With the versatility of these jars, the value is clear.  Plus, they come in a few different colors.  A ribbon or holiday trim can easily be tied around the lid for a simple, festive presentation.

Stackable Kitchen Storage – several years ago I came across clear, glass kitchen storage canisters at World Market that had a black chalkboard label area pre-stamped on.  At the time, I bought a handful of them in a variety of sizes.  Later, when I started buying almost all my dry goods from bulk bins, I went back for more.  Only this time they had been redesigned to have lids shaped in a way for stacking.  Genius!  Although it has seemed they have phased out using the chalkboard label, you can still purchase chalk board decals.

*See photo at bottom

Beauty & Eco-friendly

The list of chemicals in traditional cosmetics is alarming.  The good news, there are better alternatives.  I was fortunate to be introduced to a few alternative options this year including, but not limited to the following:

Beautycounter – sold through independent consultants, the products are developed to avoid approximately 1,500 chemicals that have either unsafe or inconclusive evidence of safety.  The company also takes a proactive approach educate consumers on cosmetic ingredients, not just sell product.  I was specifically touched by the back side of their business cards in which a “never list” of ingredients to avoid is printed.

Biba Lips – founded with a focus on glamour without less preferred ingredients, such as parabens, synthetics, or artificial fragrances.  “Biba” translates to a beautiful woman both inside and out.  The lip color line is beautifully crafted with botanicals centered on nourishing qualities and packaged in a gold-toned mirrored compact.

Bonnie – handcrafted in Chicago, Bonnie equals more than just lip balm.  The line includes facial masks, lotions & body serums, and natural perfumes.  Even better, the labeling is artistic and fully designed by the owner.  Hello stocking stuffer!

{blade +bloom} – scrubs, soaps, and body balms.  The coffee scrub is phenomenal.

Smart Handbags

A great bag can be hard to find.  Two new options I found this year are below:

(Undercover) POPULAR – specializing in self-proclaimed “upcycled vintage”, the designer finds creative ways to use retired products such as old footballs made into a handbag or wine corks turned into fun and novelty bottle charms.  She also offers a wide selection of vintage handbags and accessories.

PoCampo – I was nearly sold at first site.  These tactfully made bags are not just attractive and eye-catching, they are incredibly resourceful.  Tailored to incorporate our mobile device driven world with an on-the-go lifestyle, their designs are weather-proof and perfect for all commuter types; bike, transit, or car.

Spirits, Botanicals, Brews, & Accessories

I came across Strongwater at a craft festival.  I was blown away by the thought and care put into this old-fashion craft spirit and liquid botanical business.  The Colorado-based, young entrepreneurs focus on classic cocktail mixers based on apple cider vinegar with infused ingredients and herbal bitters extracted in grain alcohol.  Each tailored to blend flavor with apothecary health benefits.

If looking for a great complimentary product, check out 3-Switch glassware or DropCatch barware.  Completely indulgent and cool, fun products, the funky glasses and decanters 3-Switch offer are perfect for holiday cheer while DropCatch’s bar accessories are classic, stylish and practical, including their signature magnetic bottle openers.

Another beverage option is to look into local brewers that offer half and full size growlers.  This is a great way to support small-batch, sustainable, and/or organic brewers.  In Chicago, we have a fantastic addition to our local brewery community, Greenstar Brewing, http://www.uncommonground.com/greenstar-brewing.

Sustainable Produce, Seeds, & Other Organic Foods

Earlier this year, I was searching for off the beaten track gifts of a practical nature and the idea of sending up a produce box or signing the recipient up for a membership was suggested.  It takes a little digging within your respective communities, but many local companies specialize in local produce delivery, many times all or partially organic.  Another good place to look is locally owned and operated grocers.  It’s kind of free marketing for them, so it’s a win-win opportunity.

As for seed banks, it also takes a little digging to find organic vendors, but many of them operate online.  I have used SeedsNow a handful of times, including for additions to wedding gift baskets.  Spring planting themes would be great for holiday gift giving.

If you are seeking a good catch all vendor selling organic foods, teas, essential oils, and other health related products online, check out eSutras Organics.  Specializing in small batch products, they also have sustainability built into many aspects of their business model, including sourcing from smaller, artisan traders and offering discounts to customers who ship back their containers for reuse and recycling.

Handmade Soaps & Candles

It seems as though overnight, everyone is making soaps or candles.  Based on essential oils and natural ingredients, the aromatic combinations seem endless.  It’s hard to select just one.[1]  A few that I have been pleased to come across are as follows:

Soap Distillery – definitely a small-batch vendor, but not without a high level of uniqueness.  I recommend trying the Limoncello for a clean, fresh scent.

Cloud Nine Soap Co.  – this company covers all your needs for soap including body bars, a kitchen collection, designs for kids, shaving soap, and a laundry formula.  Not only are they resourceful, they have come up with some pretty great fragrance offerings.  They even sell “beer soap” which is actually infused with beer.  How is that for a unique gift option?  Also consider their skin & lip care items, bath accessories, and soy candles.

Peripeti Home – soy candles and home fragrances using essential oils over synthetics.  Seasonal fragrances include Holiday Hearth, Pumpkin & Ginger, and Cypress & Jasmine.

Artumie Candle Studio – handcrafted in Chicago and featured in select small shops across half a dozen states (also available through Wild Poppy Goods online shop, http://www.wildpoppygoods.com).  My favorite is Bergamot & Basil while Midwest Campfire is a close second and seasonally appropriate option.

The Sweet Side

There are a ton of sugar-sweetened products on the market, but only a few earn my vote.  Typically, I am looking for low sugar content (if any added sugars are used at all) and additive free, such as no gluten, dairy, or soy.  The reality is that good food products, especially those of specialty nature, often don’t come cheap.

One staple I have found is Theo chocolate bars.  For about $3.99/bar, a variety of options are available with mostly natural sweetening ingredients, such as coconut, versus added refined sugar.  For the holidays, they are offering Gingerbread Spice, Peppermint Stick, and Nutcracker Brittle specialty flavors at a slightly higher price point.  They also offer a Sea Salt Dark bar benefiting World Bicycle Relief.

This year, I also came across GrownUpKidStuff which focuses on chocolate and caramel sauces made without corn, soy, gluten, or nuts.  They also make a dairy free option.  A few of their options are definitely unique, such as a chocolate sauce infused with Big Fat’s hot sauce.

Finally, don’t forget organic spices, especially for your recipients who love to cook.  Again, a few decadent options can come at a higher price tag for everyday use.  The holidays are a great time to spoil your loved ones with a few extra additions to their spice cabinet.

Mom-made Fashions

Many years ago I befriended an outgoing young woman, Melissa, the mastermind behind Sew Like My Mom.  From what started as a hobby making colorful patterned handbags, and synergistic to her life as a mother, she has grown her business from crafty, homemade designs to the development of her own line of children’s clothing patterns.

***Watch for her four adorable children in her images and product marketing.

Other Unique Apparel, Home Goods, & Finds

Representing a hodge-podge, this list of vendors and retail stores cover a variety.  Most of which encompass eco-friendly offerings.

American-made – founded by a husband and wife duo, 50Roots serves to focus on American-made products representing products across the United States.  Carefully selected, from wine glasses to recycled messenger bags to a slinky, the product line is as diverse as the states in which products are made.  For the kiddos, check out their Eco-Kids arts and crafts and definitely do not forget to gloss over their “For Fido” options.

Global and ArtisanTen Thousand Villages operates stores across the U.S. and features artisan-made products representative of over 3 dozen developing countries while promoting fair trade.  Shop with a conscious at this crafty, diverse retailer (also available online).

Interchangeable Sandals – one of the coolest products I came across in the last year, Mohop Shoes uses orthopedic materials, changeable ties and accessories, and are made from sustainably-sourced, recycled, or fair-trade materials.  Select from either Made to Order and Ready to Wear options and be sure to also check them out on YouTube.

Rustic, Artistic, and Practical – if looking for anything from jewelry to lunch bags to a chicken coop with a refurbished feel, be sure to check out Peg + Awl.  Led by a husband and wife duo, the pair designs an array of products all with a special touch of family inspiration.

[1] Not all soy candles are created equal.  If a vendor cannot speak to this, it may be worth passing on them for now.

Photo of clear storage canisters mentioned above:

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