Sustainable Living

Dressing Ethically


One of my favorite made in the USA items: the pantsuit from! You can wear it dozens of different ways.

When I tell people I am launching an ethical fashion company focused on made in the USA clothing, they inevitably look me up and down and ask me”is what you are wearing now made in the USA?”

The answer is generally “no, it’s not.”

But that’s for a reason, I explain. While I do try to show off my IMBY inventory, I have a limited number of made in the USA items in my closet. Why? Because I took the plunge into ethical fashion a little less than two years ago, and with the pledge to shop consciously, I also started shopping much less frequently. I have tons of clothes from my “pre-ethical” days, and I don’t think it’s ethical to throw all those perfectly useful clothes away to allow my closet to be “ethical-only.”

However, I haven’t bought a single new item of clothing since February 2014 that wasn’t made ethically or thrifted. That’s something I am proud to say. What I really realized in this process is that I simply don’t need much. I have more than enough clothes! I used to shop when I was bored or to kill time. Now anything I add to my closet now is something special, something that speaks to me, and something that fills a need.

To me, that’s being an ethical shopper– it goes beyond the label. It’s not throwing out all your old Zara and Forever 21 clothes, it making a conscious decision in this moment, moving forward, to be aware of how your clothes are made, and to tell the story of how you choose to spend your money.

That’s one of the main reasons I started IMBY, to help consumers who want to shop in this way find whatever they need easily, quickly, and affordably. And on my journey, I have come across so many other individuals taking this pledge and starting their own ethical companies. I am confident that ethical fashion is on the rise.

What does conscious consumerism mean to you?


Sustainable Living

Happy #FashionRevolutionDay

Today is Fashion Revolution Day. The movement urges individuals to shop in an ethical and socially responsible way, and to truly know where our clothes are coming from. I am a big fan of the movement, and not just for the day, but as a lifestyle.

My outfit for #FashioNRevolutionDay. Top and pants thrifted and made in USA, thrifted necklace, motojacket, warby parker glasses.

My outfit for #FashionRevolutionDay. Top and pants thrifted and made in USA, thrifted necklace, motojacket, warby parker glasses.

My friend Kristin started an apparel company called, where she manufactures beautiful, timeless, and versatile clothing in the USA. She is intimately involved with sourcing the fabrics (which are often surplus from places like J.Crew, who will throw out the fabric because of the slightest imperfections*) and the sewing of each garment in Denver, CO. I have been a big fan of since the beginning (you may be familiar with my versalette challenges!).

*Can you imagine what society would be like if we dismissed everyone who was imperfect? Why should we treat our clothing this way? Isn’t imperfection what makes the world beautiful. Just a thought.

Through one of the versalette challenges ( sells an item called the versalette which you can wear in dozens of ways, and Kristin has challenges to wear it 7 days straight!), I was introduced to Kestrel of Awear, and immediately took her pledge to be more cognizant of the clothing I purchase. Since February 2014, I have only purchased clothing items that are either thrifted, made in the USA, or socially responsible in their practices (she has some other options like vegan items, organic, etc.). It has been a wonderful and rewarding (and sometimes challenging) experience.

Here are a few things I’ve learned:

  1. Being mindful is important in all facets of life. Before I started following, I really never thought about where my clothes came from. Since then, I have realized how often we aren’t mindful at all, whether that’s with shopping, what we eat, who we spend our time with, or how our jobs make us feel. It is so important to decide what matters to you and pay attention deeply. To doing things with intent.
  2. I really don’t need much. I have so many clothes already from before the pledge that I really don’t need anything new. So I only purchase things I really love, and things I feel good about purchasing. I used to shop just to kill time, shopping at places like Forever 21 and buying ridiculously quantities of cheap clothing..’s items are more than I used to spend at Forever 21, but I feel great purchasing them, they are much higher quality, and I need less of them to be happy. Now I shop when I really want something new and can find something that meets my requirements.
  3. Just because I care about conscious consumerism doesn’t mean everyone else does. This topic is something I am really passionate about, but I can’t expect everyone to feel as passionate about it as me. I am sure many friends have passions that I don’t share! So I often share with people how I shop and answer their questions, but I choose not to proselytize them to join the cause. Issues like this are only powerful when they mean something to you.

So, as I write this in the flagship TOMS Shoes store in Venice, CA (which is plastered with signs saying things like “GIVE” and “we exist to make a difference”), I see myself continuing with the pledge in perpetuity, and I hope to expand it to other facets of my life. I often feel a bit like a fraud when I only buy ethical clothing but don’t pay as much attention to other things I buy. But you have to start somewhere, and this has been a rewarding and meaningful place to start.

Speaking of starting somewhere, how do you consume consciously? What do you pledge to pay more attention to this year?

Social Innovation, Sustainable Living, Tech, Troublemakers

Meet Troublemaker Morgan Berman, Founder and CEO of MilkCrate

morgan-woodI met Morgan Berman when she participated in the Tribe12 Fellowship, a PresenTense Accelerator, this past spring. I was immediately excited by her Idea for MilkCrate, an app for sustainable living (think: yelp for socially responsible/sustainably focused businesses). Dedicated to living a sustainable lifestyle as much as possible myself, I was excited to learn more about this necessary troublemaker and support her in building a lasting impact through her app. I interviewed Morgan, read on to learn a bit about what inspires her and more about MilkCrate, as well as her tips for living a sustainable lifestyle.

What inspired you to create MilkCrate?
I wanted to learn how to live a more sustainable lifestyle. I began by reading and researching sustainability and the local economy here in Philadelphia. I joined a community garden and eventually started a new one, composted on my deck, ditched my car for a bike, and shopped the local green community here in Philadelphia. Over time my lifestyle choices became immersed in all things green. As a requirement for my Sustainable Design Masters Program at Philadelphia University I developed a thesis that would become the very first version of MilkCrate. I wanted to design something from beginning to end. However my M.Sc. program was focused on the built environment. Most of my peers were architects or engineers. I am neither. So I had to find something I could design that if it ‘broke’, no one would die. An app felt like a good, skill-based place to start. I figured, “I worked at Apple part-time for a year teaching people how to use an iPhone, that’s a good enough qualification to design an app, right?”

How does MilkCrate enable individuals to support their local communities?
Right now MilkCrate is a basic tool allowing you to find businesses and resources connected to sustainability and the local economy right in your neighborhood and throughout the city. Future versions will have a community calendar, social media integration, and many other ways for people to personalize their experience, while connecting with others in the sustainability community, including business owners and our partner organizations.

Why is sustainable living important to you?
It was just a part of growing up. My parents kept a vegetable garden, fruit trees, and composted. My mom and I shopped at thrift stores, first, the mall last. We even dumpster dived, and made some great (but embarrassing) curb-side finds. She eventually started a business called Thrift Shop Maniac Enterprises from her developing skill set and consciousness, and I was there, helping out and learning by osmosis. We re-purposed, reused, rethought, consigned and donated; we rarely if ever considered throwing anything out. But I guess it all came together for me when I started to understand the impact of climate change and environmental degradation, and the uneven distribution of natural resources on people’s lives all over the world. Locally, I care about the lack of access to affordable fresh healthy food here in Philadelphia. And don’t get me started on what treacherous circumstances cyclist like myself face biking around the city in car congested, polluted streets.

How do you live your life in a sustainable way?bannerphonenew
I filter every decision I make through the same process that surrounded me growing up: I buy most of my food locally, whether from farmers markets or restaurants. I compost on my deck and grow a small garden. I bike everywhere. I don’t own a car. I purchase a lot of my clothes secondhand, at thrift or consignment stores. I always have a water bottle and generally cut down packaging in as many ways as possible. I get my energy from Green Mountain Energy. I make sure things like batteries or lightbulbs get disposed of properly. Even my cat Chester is recycled from the SPCA. Once you start living, deciding, shopping this way, the easier it gets.

What are three things Necessary Troublemakers can do today to start living a more sustainable life?
You only need one now: Use MilkCrate! Or if you aren’t in the Philly area, help us grow to your city by contributing to our Indiegogo Campaign before it ends on September 23rd.

What piece of advice can you give to individuals who want to take action on issues that are important to them?
Find other people who care about the same things you do. They have sustained me. They will sustain you.

What’s your favorite item or service you’ve received/purchased from a MilkCrate partner?
I could never pick an all time favorite, there are just too many moments of finding the next great company or product. For me, my favorite ‘moment’ now is giving others the opportunity to find their newest, favorite MilkCrate company. Now that our app is available to download, anyone can find a new MilkCrate favorite in the Philadelphia area, and soon anywhere.

General troublemaking, Healthy Living, Social Innovation

Sorry I’m Not Sorry

Lately I feel that I’m often on the defensive about my lifestyle choices. I am seen as extreme for making a conscious choice to eat real, clean foods that have no preservatives/additives, choosing to consume socially responsible goods, and being conscious about how I treat myself and the world.

My friends, family, colleagues think I am judging them for eating oreos (yum) and shopping at Forever 21. Well, friends, I am not judging you. I am not a judge-y person. Rather, I am judging the world we live in. I don’t blame people for eating foods packed with chemicals or buying clothes that are in no way a benefit to the world because that’s the norm, the status quo. It is really, really hard to avoid those things (and I spend a lot of time figuring out how to do that– more coming soon!). But it shouldn’t be that way. I will not accept that the world and the country I live in is flawed and nearly forcing us to consume products that aren’t acceptable, I will make trouble until I feel I am living in a world that I want to leave for my kids and grandkids and grand-grand-grand(x10) kids.

So I wanted to say:

Sorry I’m not sorry.

I am not going to apologize for being my “extreme” self. I’m not apologizing for thinking that consuming junk and things that are bad for my body and bad for the world is ridiculous or extreme. And I’m not sorry for pointing it out to you so you can make conscious decisions; not to make you feel bad, but to point out that we DON’T have to stand for the crap that is in the supermarket or the department store. And we won’t make change until enough people aren’t sorry either.

Even writing this, I sound extreme. I see it, I am reading it. But I don’t understand why it has to be that way. Why are we considered extreme if we just want basic, normal, sustainable things that won’t destroy our bodies or the planet? What a radical idea!

I keep thinking about this quote from Steve Jobs that we use in our visioning seminar at PresenTense. He says:

When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

This quote has, in fact, changed my viewpoint on the world. It’s so true. The things that frustrate me are completely man-made, and not any more real than anything else, than my opinions or the things I want to make or consume. Right? So if man had the right to add chemicals to my food, to employ kids in sweatshops to make my clothes, to damage the environment by the amount of pollution and waste we produce, and more, I have the right to disagree with that. So I am. Sue me.

Sorry I am not sorry for caring. And I am not sorry for causing trouble on issues I care about. And you shouldn’t be either.