17 Women Vegan and Eco Fashion Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing the World

Women Vegan Fashion Entrepreneurs

According to the marketing firm Girl Power Marketing:

  • Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases.

Yet despite this powerful influence on the economy:

  • Only 10% of venture capital funding goes to female entrepreneurs.
  • And only 28% of companies that hit $1 million or more in annual revenue are owned by women. (CNBC)

Arnobio Morelix, an entrepreneurship researcher at the Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on breaking down barriers to entrepreneurship, said that, “Female-owned businesses, in general, start smaller and stay smaller.”

Entrepreneurship is a tough road by any standard, and these statistics underscore the barriers that women entrepreneurs must break through to reach even a modicum of success. Couple this with being a female entrepreneur who is upending the status quo in additional ways, and success becomes even more evasive.

One industry that is overdue for an overhaul is the fashion industry. Wasteful, polluting, and exploitative of both people and animals, the business of making clothing, shoes, and accessories has been ripe for disruption for decades. The passion and tenacity of the female entrepreneurs we profile here, who are infusing sustainable and vegan sensibilities into both their designs and supply chains, is finally having an impact.

According to the market research firm WGSN, last year:

  • Sustainable fashion sales grew by 19%.
  • And sales of sustainable fabrics grew by 20%.

This growing demand has undoubtedly been fueled by the hard work of socially conscious entrepreneurs like these – and not to mention, the devotion of their savvy clientele.

So, in honor of International Women’s Day, we wanted to give these pioneering women a UniGuide shoutout for defying the odds and helping us all look and feel like our best selves in the process.

1. Carmen Hijosa

Founder and CEO of Ananas Anam, the Maker Piñatex®

Carmen Hijosa
Photo: GOV.UK

While working as a consultant in the leather industry, Carmen Hijosa was on a business trip in the Philippines. Seeing firsthand the amount of chemicals used in the leather tanning process and their impact on workers and the environment, she became deeply troubled. This sparked a powerful motivation in her to find a more Earth-friendly alternative to leather, if it existed. Seeing local people making garments out of plant fibers inspired her to see if a leather alternative could also be made from plant fibers. The result was Piñatex®, a non-woven material made from the fibers of pineapple leaves, which is now being used to make eco-friendly vegan shoes and bags.

Here’s a video of Carmen, presented by the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards:

Here’s another great video of Carmen explaining how Piñatex® is made:

Shop for Piñatex products on Amazon:

Buy Now on Amazon

 

2. Alicia Lai

Founder and Director, Bourgeois Boheme

Alicia Lei
Photo: LinkedIn

Alicia Lai started her career as a podiatrist. This experience and her love for shoes eventually led her to designing and creating high-quality footwear. But as a devoted vegan, making shoes with animal skin didn’t rest well with her. And her sense of empathy extended beyond animals to the workers toiling away in factories making the shoes many of us wear everyday.

These sensibilities were the foundation of Alicia’s footwear company, Bourgeois Boheme (“BoBo” for short.) Today, Bourgeois Boheme is a 100% vegan, sustainability-focused footwear company that ensures their workers have safe working conditions and get paid a living wage. The company is breaking new ground by using Earth-friendly materials, like Piñatex and plant-based polymers derived from natural, renewable sources, like grains and seeds, instead of those made from petrochemicals.

Shop for Bourgeois Boheme on Amazon:

Buy Now on Amazon

3. Lisa Siedledcki and Jennifer Silbert

Founders and Designers, Rewilder

Lisa Siedledcki and Jennifer Silbert
Photo: Lilouinla.com

Lisa Siedledcki and Jennifer Silbert were both working as designers in the traditional fashion and accessories industries. A concern for the environment and knowledge of the waste produced by these industries led them to create Rewilder, a maker of ultra hip, fashion-forward accessories. Rewilder repurposes materials that would otherwise end up in the landfill and makes them into functional beach bags, dopp kits, aprons, and more – all of which are unique and handmade. The duo describe themselves as “passionately creative makers who believe in repurposing materials already in circulation rather than making them anew.”

Here’s a video where they describe their design and production process:

4. Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart

Founder and Designer, VAUTE

Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart
Photo: LetsMend.com

A bona fide fashion industry disrupter, Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart has taken the world by storm with her vegan high-fashion (hence the name VAUTE: “haute” with a “v” for vegan.) A designer who wears her values on her sleeve, Leanne described herself and the early VAUTE team as “activists and weirdos” – the kind of kids who thought “we’d never find someone else who cared as much as we do.” How wrong they were.

These days, you can’t really talk about vegan fashion without mentioning Leanne, who’s been described as a game changer for the whole industry. As a young animals rights activist and a disenfranchised teen, she wondered about her place in the world. A modeling job took her to Taipei, where she came across Deepak Chopra’s book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success in a used book store. A section of the book caught her eye: “There is abundance where your talents meet the needs of the world.” She sensed that somehow, some way, her deep sense of compassion, desire to protect animals and people, and her appreciation for style and beauty would bring something positive to the world.

5. Arti Upadhyay

Founder, Neuaura

Arti Upadhya
Photo: VeganMainstream.com

Raised in a family of animal lovers, Arti Upadhyay grew up vegetarian. Her love of design and fashion led her to a job working for a footwear company when she was in college. In 2007, she set out on her own to create her own shoe company that more closely matched her compassionate values, and Neuaura was born. Neuaura shoes are 100% vegan, and the company focuses on using sustainable materials in their designs whenever possible. In addition, they donate 5% of sales to environmental nonprofits.

Shop for Neuaura Shoes on Amazon:

Buy Now on Amazon

6. Gosia Piatek

Founder and Creative Director, Kowtow

Gosia Piatek
Photo: Fashionz.co.nz

Gosia Piatek was new to the world of fashion and design when she started her clothing company, Kowtow. But a desire for “minimalist and effortless” clothing that had low environmental impact superseded any lack of traditional training. Gosia was inspired to create something better and different from what she was seeing in the market. Today, Kowtow’s entire collection is made only with ethically-sourced and environmentally sustainable materials. Kowtow uses only Fair Trade, organic cotton, and of course, every garment is 100% cruelty-free.

What does the production process of Fair Trade cotton look like? Take a look at this video from Kowtow:

7. Komie and Meg Vor

Founders and Designers, Delikate Rayne

Komie Meg Vor
Photo: NPHAP.com

Sister team Komie and Meg Vor embraced their inner rebels to create what they call a “grunge glam” fashion line – a tribute to “the effortless dynamism of the empowered female.” Raised in Orange County, CA in a traditional Indian family, they had to overcome the gender stereotypes of a culture that expects women and girls to act a certain way and fit a certain role.

Delikate Rayne (pronounced “delicate rain”) is a result of their refusal to fit any stereotype, while also paying tribute to their Indian/American upbringing. Raised as vegetarians by two compassionate parents, their line is 100% cruelty-free, and all of their clothes are made in the U.S.A. (Source: NBC News.) And their design philosophy reflects class American style: “Abandon limits, abandon convention, and embrace your own beauty.”

 

8. Stella McCartney

Founder and Designer, Stella McCartney

Stella McCartney
Photo: CareerGirlDaily.com

A trailblazer in the eco and vegan fashion scene, Stella McCartney is another name that is synonymous with ethical and cruelty-free fashion. Stella has never wavered from her sensibilities and approach to style. She has been described as a “consistent and vocal” supporter of animal rights and has won countless awards for design and social entrepreneurship. She’s a designer who wears her heart on her sleeve and helps the rest of us to do so too.

We love this video of Stella presented by Vogue Voices:

Shop for Stella McCartney on Amazon:

Buy Now on Amazon

9. Gina Ferraraccio and Julie Dicterow

Founders and Designers, Cri de Coeur

Gina Ferraraccio and Julie Dicterow
Photo: YourNextShoes.com

Gina Ferraraccio and Julie Dicterow met as students at Parsons New School of Design in New York and bonded over their love of animals and concern for the environment. They wanted to offer fellow vegan and eco fashionistas alternatives to the materials typically used in the fashion industry that exploit animals.

Cri de Coeur, which translated from French means “cry from the heart,” is testament to their “heartfelt desire to change the face of the fashion footwear and accessory markets by providing stylish, contemporary products that are ethically produced.” Their addition of cutting edge designer Arden Wohl to the team means Cri de Coeur is developing even more vegan shoes and accessories that are changing the face of fashion as we know it.

Shop for Cri de Coeur on Amazon:

Buy Now on Amazon

 

10. Elizabeth Olsen

Founder and Designer, olsen Haus

Elizabeth Olsen
Photo: VeganBusinessMedia.com

Elizabeth Olsen truly deserves the title of designer activist. She is an outspoken advocate for animals, voicing her belief that they should not be used food, clothing, experimentation, or entertainment. Her designs embody the statement on her website that says, “plundering, cruelty, and greed are not synonymous with true style.” We couldn’t agree more. Elizabeth has broken the stereotype of vegan fashion not being, well, fashionable. Gone is the convention that vegan shoes are flat, plastic, and orthopedic-looking. olsen Haus boasts stiletto heels, ankle straps, and fashion-forwarding sensibilities.

Here’s a video of Elizabeth being interviewed by the team at Planet Verge:

Shop for olsen Haus on Amazon:

Buy Now on Amazon

11. Julia and Laura Ahrens

Founders and Designers, Miakoda

Julia and Laura Ahrens
Photo: SustainableInTheMaking.com

While their designs are more for comfort and movement than what you’d see on a typical Paris runway, sister team Julia and Laura Ahrens are pushing the envelope on the use of better materials in their clothing. Miakoda is the antithesis of the toxic, chemical-ridden, and cruel fast fashion movement, making it all seem strange and unnecessary.

Trained at Parsons School of Design, Julia is a self-described “former shopaholic turned sustainable lifestyler vegan yogi.” She and her fellow yogini sister, Laura, create clothing that is “soft, cozy, and comfortable” while being ethically made and environmentally conscious. And we can’t love them enough for breaking the body-type stereotype that plagued the fashion industry of old.

12. Helga Douglas

Founder and Designer, Svala

Helga Douglas
Photo: Svala.com

Helga Douglas named her company for the Icelandic name for a swallow bird. A symbol of “love, loyalty, freedom, and hope” in many cultures, the swallow represents the values that Helga has put into her handbags, lingerie, and sleepwear lines. Svala utilizes sustainable materials, like cork and Pinatex®, as well as organic cotton, reclaimed lace, and recycled polyester in their products. And taking things a step further, they offset their carbon emissions and utilize local manufacturing in Los Angeles, CA.

13. Tina Tangalakis

Founder, Della Fashion

Tina Tangalakis
Photo: Dellala.com

After studying costume design at California Institute of the Arts and then working as a costume maker and wardrobe stylist for film and television, Tina Tangalakis was feeling a little burned out; as though her work lacked a deeper purpose. Wanting to give back, she participated in an international volunteer program that took her to Hohoe, Ghana.

In Ghana, Tina was inspired by the culture, design, and artisan work she saw. Teaming up with a local friend and entrepreneur, Selorm “Nii” Addotey, she created Della to bring Ghanaian fashion to the U.S. and to provide jobs, education, and skills-training for the people of Hohoe.

Here’s Tina giving an inspiring TED Talk about how she found her true calling:

14. Stephanie Nicora

Founder and Designer, Nicora

Stephanie Nicora
Photo: GirlieGirlArmy.com

A winner of the PETA Most Talented New Designer Award, Stephanie Nicora is a classically-trained shoemaker who is intent on making leather shoes a thing of the past. Describing shoe making as her “craft and passion,” the vegan designer couldn’t stand the destructiveness of the footwear industry, where workers toil away in grueling and unsafe conditions and animals are exploited for their skin.

Stephanie felt that she didn’t have to compromise her values to create beautiful, high-quality footwear. Utilizing eco-friendly production methods, including a solar-powered production facility, Nicora boasts some compelling statistics when it comes to how their shoes are manufactured vs. traditional methods: Every pair they make uses eight fewer gallons of fossil fuels, 11,000 fewer kwt hours of electricity, and saves tens of thousands of gallons of water.

Here’s a video of Stephanie presented by PETA:

15. Puja Barar

Founder, Satva Living

Puja Barar
Photo: YouTube

After working in New York as a designer and having her first child, Puja Bara knew she needed to make a change. Turned off by the environmental destruction caused by the clothing industry and the poor treatment of workers, she teamed up with a partner in Mumbai named Sameer Mehra, the managing director at of Suminter India Organics, a provider of high-quality organic food and fiber products that are produced under environmentally and socially conscious conditions. (Source: Forbes.)

Satva translates to “pure” in Sanskrit. Satva’s entire line of comfortable, breathable activewear is made with eco-friendly fabrics, including GOTS certified organic cotton and recycled polyester. Their fabrics are colored with natural, non-toxic, plant-based dyes. And Satva donates a portion of their profits to programs that support girls’ education in impoverished communities in India.

Here’s a video with Puja on the story of Satva Living:

Shop for Satva on Amazon:

Buy Now on Amazon

 

16. Christy Dawn Petersen

Founder and Designer, Christy Dawn

Christy Dawn Petersen
Photo: ChristyDawn.com

An American model who hails from the Western-style town of Placerville, CA, Christy Dawn Petersen turned her fashion know-how and love of classic dressmaking into an Earth-friendly clothing line with a cult following. Christy Dawn’s dresses are made from “deadstock” fabrics, which are the unused scraps left over from the traditional fashion manufacturing process. Christy Dawn’s dresses are the antithesis of the mass-produced fast fashion products you find at any mall; each vintage-inspired dress is made in a very limited supply in downtown Los Angeles, CA.

17. Bianca Moran

Founder and Creative Director, Susi Studio

Bianca Moran
Photo: SusiStudio.com

Vegan since the age of 14, Bianca Moran is both a restaurateur, having founded the first vegan and gluten-free restaurant in the Philippines, and a distinguished designer. Susi Studio creates irresistible shoes made with faux leather, faux patent leather, and faux suede, as well as other vegan materials like recycled plastic and denim. Susi Studios’ shoes are made in Portugal and Hong Kong, and the company ensures workers make fair wages, and work in safe conditions. Susi’s Hong Kong factory is owned and operated entirely by women.

Ah inspiration! Thank you, Ladies! You put wind in our sails!

Resources:

UniGuide’s photo caption linking is broken right now! To read more about these amazing creators and see the sources of the photos, here they are in order of appearance:

  1. Carmen Hijosa, Innovate UK
  2. Alicia Lai, LinkedIn
  3. Lisa Siedledcki and Jennifer Silbert, LilouInLA
  4. Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart, Mend
  5. Arti Upadhyay, Vegan Mainstream
  6. Gosia Piatek, Fashion NZ
  7. Komie and Meg Vor, NPHAP
  8. Stella McCartney, Career Girl Daily
  9. Gina Ferraraccio and Julie Dicterow, Your Next Shoes
  10. Elizabeth Olsen, Vegan Business Media
  11. Julia and Laura Ahrens, Sustainable in the Making
  12. Helga Douglas, Svala
  13. Tina Tangalakis, Della
  14. Stephanie Nicora, Girlie Girl Army
  15. Puja Barar, YouTube
  16. Christy Dawn Petersen, Christy Dawn
  17. Bianca Moran, Susi Studio

Check out more eco and vegan shoes, clothing, and accessories on UniGuide:

15 Vegan, Recycled, and Eco-Friendly Flip Flops

15 Brands that Make Wood, Recycled, Bamboo, and Biodegradable Sunglasses

10 Cool Men’s Boots (that also Happen to Be Vegan)

A Conversation with Sustainable Products Entrepreneur Terry Omata

Terry Omata, Founder of Sustainable Products Company Reveal
Terry Omata, Founder and CEO of Reveal

In some ways, Terry Omata is the classic social entrepreneur. He’s a businessman who cares deeply about people and the planet, and he believes we must act now to create a better world for today and the future. But in another way, Terry the entrepreneur is unique, and this is due in no small part to his broad experience in manufacturing. Any sustainable products developer you meet today knows we need to change the way we design products, from the raw materials we use, to our manufacturing processes, to planning how we’ll dispose of them. Terry not only knows this – he’s lived it. He spent nearly a decade living in China getting a wide variety of products manufactured for companies like Nintendo, Amazon, and Toyota. But there came a point in his career when Terry realized he needed to make a change and somehow apply all that experience to doing things differently – and that’s how Reveal was born. Here’s a transcript of a conversation I had with Terry, where I was home in Pacifica, California, and he was at his home in Seattle, Washington, right before moving with his family to Bali, Indonesia.

Kristen Stanton, Founder and CEO of UniGuide

Kristen Stanton (KS): Great to talk with you Terry! I’m obviously a huge fan of your products – I’ve got a cork iPhone 7 case and a bamboo iPad Mini case by Reveal, and clumsy person that I am, I’ve dropped both a few times, and they’ve managed to survive just fine thanks to your cases. You have a background in manufacturing, and I’m sure you could have started a company that makes any kind of product you can imagine. But instead, you started one that develops products made from sustainable materials. What inspired this?

Terry Omata (TO): Great to talk with you too! A lot of my inspiration has to do with growing up in Seattle, in the Pacifica Northwest, where you’re surrounded by trees and mountains, clean air, and clean water. I think I took a lot of this for granted growing up. I just thought it was normal. After college, I taught middle school math and science in the Bay Area, and then I went to grad school and got my master’s degree in international affairs. All I knew in my mid-20s was that I loved travelling, I loved teaching, and I was open to new adventures. I met my wife in grad school and shortly thereafter, we ended up living in China. And that’s when I got introduced to the world of mass manufacturing. My job in China was to evaluate various factories – their working conditions and product quality – and to determine whether those factories were suitable for getting things made for my clients.

You can only imagine what it must have been like for a kid from Seattle to end up working in a city called Shenzhen, which is on the southern border near Hong Kong, and has nearly 12 million people in it. Then, across the border in Hong Kong, there are another seven million people. From there, you can take a 30-minute train ride to Guangzhou, which has 14 million people, and then another city that is just 20 minutes away, called Dongguan, which has another eight million people. You are in this mass of humanity! On the one hand, it’s very exciting and humbling, but on the other – it’s very different from Seattle. All those things I took for granted back home – clean air, clean water, trees – were suddenly the exception instead of the norm.

shenzhen_china
Shenzhen, China

After a while, I had a mid-life crisis in my career. I had to ask myself, ‘What am I doing?’ I was making all of these products and had to ask, ‘What does it really mean?’ They were ending up in stores on shelves all over the world. But I would literally wake up in the middle of the night after having nightmares of massive landfills and oceans full of plastic. I was as a crossroads. I had learned how large scale manufacturing works, but I had to ask myself, ‘Am I going to just keep doing this, or am I going to do something different?’

That’s how I stumbled upon the idea of Reveal. It was pretty simple. I wanted to reveal a new way to design products. I wanted to reveal different materials, like recycled, organic, and eco-friendly. It was also about revealing the beauty of nature. This is why we have the four Rs in our logo. It’s close to the philosophy of reduce, re-use, and recycle. As a company, we also wanted to reveal organizations that are making a difference, and remind people of what’s important in life.

Reveal - 4Rs in their logo, cork iPhone case

KS: I love that inspiration. I have found that with most mission-driven companies, like Reveal, there is a profound story behind their names, why they were founded, and how they got here. It’s never just about, ‘OK, what is going to make us the most money?’ It’s about, ‘This is a big problem. How do we fix it?’ With UniGuide, I was also at a complete impasse in my life right before I started it. I was totally overwhelmed by the problems in the world, and I literally prayed for a universal guide to show me the way to try to fix things.

In addition to making products from sustainable materials, you guys take it a step further and plant a tree for every product you sell. How did you decide to do that and how did you select American Forests to partner with?

TO: American Forests was established in 1875, and it’s the oldest reforestation service in the United States. They helped establish our National Parks system, and from day one, they were focused on crafting smarter environmental policies in the U.S. We were also inspired by companies like TOMS Shoes, which is making a difference in a very tangible way that is easy for shoppers to understand. We wanted to make it easy for people to understand that if they purchased from us, something good would happen. It was important for us to work with a trusted partner and not some fly-by-night organization. We wanted to work with a nonprofit that was very committed to doing good. So, for every product we sell, we donate one dollar to plant trees in endangered ecosystems.american-forestsKS: That’s awesome and it clearly resonates with your customers. It resonated with me.

One of the first blog posts I wrote for UniGuide was about phone cases. I needed a new phone case, and I had my eye on a glittery plastic one. I admit I love sparkly things. But I was aware of the plastic problem we have that is literally killing life in our oceans, so I started doing research to see if I could find eco-friendly alternatives. This was a few years ago, and it took some time to find these products. That’s when I discovered Reveal. What is interesting is that, as I learned, my taste completely changed. The knowledge completely changed my sense of aesthetics! I didn’t want the plastic glittery one anymore.

So, I guess the golden question is, once your path is clear – you know what you want to do with your products and your company, you know your mission – now how do you get more people on board? I mean, you can walk into any mall, possibly anywhere in the developed world, and finds kiosks selling plastic phone cases. How do we get people to change their sense of aesthetics and select products made from natural and sustainable materials so they become mainstream?

TO: Well, the way you discovered it – I think that’s how change is going to happen. It’s got to be up to people – consumers; not retailers. I went through this process when selling our products. When I was working in manufacturing in China, we were producing products that would be sold in the big brick and mortar retail stores. But calling on these retailers and trying to convince them to put something different on their shelves was an uphill battle. Large brick and mortar retailers are averse to change and anything perceived to be risky. They don’t feel it’s their job to change consumer attitudes; they are more focused on meeting immediate demand.

KS: Big retailers are like giant battleships – not known to be maneuverable or quick!

TO: Yes, so you can imagine it was very frustrating to be talking to these gatekeepers about something we were so passionate about and they just didn’t get it. What we’ve come to realize is that they will not be the change makers. Everyday consumers will be.

KS: I totally agree. I think when people know the story behind products, they make better choices. So, it’s a matter of getting those stories out. We like to feel good about what we’re buying, wearing, and using, and if there is a positive story behind it – it’s more enjoyable to own it. Social media and the digital age we live in has made it easier than ever for people to know the stories behind products. And you see you how powerful Facebook has become, with 16% of the world’s population using it – it’s easier than ever for consumers to get the full story behind what they’re buying and consuming.

TO: It’s incredible, and this is why it’s so critical right now to make changes and use more sustainable products. I mean, you look at the population of China, with 1.4 billion people, it’s staggering. Then, you look at India, with over 1.3 billion people, and then South America, with another half a billion people – and all of these people wear shoes and clothes and many have sunglasses and cell phones. They are consuming products every day, day after day. If we don’t change the products we’re consuming and the way we are consuming, it will have devastating effects. In fact, it already is.

KS: I think about this a lot, especially as it relates to smaller durable products, like wallets, clothing, shoes, and other items. We promote hemp dog collars on UniGuide, as well as those made from other sustainable materials. And I’ve often found myself asking, ‘Is a dog collar really going to change the world?’ But if you think about all of the small products we use every day, many of which are not going to be family heirlooms, right? Most will be used for a few years and then discarded. But if you look at it on a global scale – it really adds up! I know the nonprofit 5 Gyres has an initiative to get people to stop using plastic straws. You might think – It’s a little plastic straw. What’s the problem? Well, we use more than 500 million per day. Straws! So, the little things matter – when we all use them, they add up!

Dolphin in Ocean Plastic Pollution
Dolphin swimming in ocean pollution. We discard about 19 billion pounds of plastic into the ocean every year. (Huffington Post)

TO: I know, you multiply that by seven billion people, using these things day after day, and it’s a problem. This is why we need innovation everywhere – even with the seemingly simplest products we use. Imagine if every straw ever made was sustainable and biodegradable?

KS: I hope we’re moving closer to that. We can’t do it fast enough. But, let’s talk about that a little more – actually making sustainable products, and making sure they’re good quality. On UniGuide, we promote a variety of eco-friendly and vegan products, and whenever possible, I like to test the products out. I once ordered a bamboo iPad case made by another company, and after about a week, I dropped it, and the case broke. Luckily, it didn’t damage my iPad. So, I emailed the company, and to their credit, they sent me a new one. Then, within a week, I set it down, and the second case broke. This was especially upsetting for me because for anyone who is trying to promote sustainable products, if the quality is bad for one, it’s like the bad apple that makes all the others look bad. It will feed a belief system among consumers that products made from new, eco, natural, or recycled materials just can’t compete on a quality level with what is now the mainstream. One of the things I really like about Reveal is that your products are incredibly well-designed and well-made. How do ensure consistent quality and that your products can compete with anything else out there?

TO: It’s really true that you don’t want to get into a situation where consumers get an impression that, for example, products made from sustainable bamboo are just not as durable, because it’s simply not true. And if products are not well made and they fall apart, you’re only contributing to the waste problem because they have to be thrown away. Quality has to be number one. You can have a great message and story, but if your products are not built to last, then you’re not going to make it. Because of our history and experience in manufacturing, making products for companies like Toyota, Starbucks, and even the American Cancer Society, we have a lot of experience with this and we take quality very seriously.

Companies have to be responsible no matter where their products are produced. Whether they get made in Los Angeles or Honduras or Bangladesh – you are responsible for all of it. There is a stigma about getting things made in China. People have preconceived notions of what that means. But you can pick any country, whether it’s the U.S. or Vietnam – and it is still your responsibility as the product creator and the brand to know how your products are being produced. You need to know if it’s a good facility, if workers are treated fairly, if the conditions are environmentally responsible. These products are not made by Santa Claus and his elves in the North Pole! They’re made by real people who have families, dreams, and fears.

We started Reveal to impact change on a global scale. We wanted to plant millions of trees. We knew we would not be able to do this with poor quality or by getting things made in factories that did not meet our high social, environmental, and quality standards.

KS: I applaud you for doing that! So, what is next for Reveal?

TO: Thanks! Just as you said, we want to keep getting our story out so people know what is behind our products. And we will continue working on product development, which is what we are passionate about. You’ll be seeing more tech accessories from Reveal, including more solar-related products. We have our hands full, but we are excited about the future.

Reveal Solar-Powered Bluetooth Speaker and Phone Charger

KS: Awesome. Keep up the good work! Thanks again for sharing your story with us.

TO: Thank you!

Click here to check out Reveal’s products.

reveal-sustainable-products

Why I Started UniGuide

little-boy-kaleidoscope

UniGuide started as a humble blog in a constellation of a gazillion other blogs, twinkling at varying levels of brightness. It was started when I was at an impasse in my life and unsure of how to get over the obstacles before me. I wanted to live my life better – in a number of ways. I thought, If only I could tap into some kind of universal guide to show me the way…

People who have a really good sense of direction have always filled me with a certain awe. It’s as though they have a compass implanted in their foreheads that automatically tells them in which direction is true north, and they navigate their lives accordingly, making good choices all along the way. They’re the kind of people who never forget where they parked in a multilevel parking lot.

I am not one of those people.

Maybe you know people like me. Maybe even, you are one.

We’re the types who take a more haphazard route. Maybe it’s because we get lost easily, or maybe it’s because we willfully choose to bushwhack our way through life. We make rash decisions, and overly emotional ones. We make the well-charted folks wonder, Have they gone completely astray, or are they merely taking the scenic route?

When well-meaning people give us directions, we smile, and completely ignore them, and then get sidetracked by dead-end streets and carnival sideshows.

Wayward choices were leading me astray in many areas of my life: career, relationships, money… and consumption of all kinds. I felt like I was running in circles, putting out all this energy to get somewhere, and still seeing the all too familiar places. When I finally got on a traditional climb-the-corporate-ladder kind of career path, I went full steam ahead, mainly just so I wouldn’t slow down long enough to screw it up. After all, being focused is practical and important, no? Or else, how the heck are you going to get anywhere?

But then the opposite problem occurred. I became so laser focused on succeeding on the path I was on that I developed a serious case of tunnel vision. I began charting my life course by looking through a periscope – Ok, goals: promotion, better titles, more money, house, stuff, better vacations, more stuff… the side effect of which was putting blinders on my awareness: my self awareness and my global awareness, my physical awareness and my spiritual awareness. I narrowed down my scope so tight in an attempt to stay on the straight and narrow that I ended up getting lost anyway. I thought, WTF, how did I get here? Wasn’t there supposed to be more purpose to my life?

You may have asked the same question that I did and then, hopefully, the next one:

How do I make substantive changes to lead a better life?

In my case, I went back to baseline: What do I love? What do I care about? For starters: my family and friends; but also, social issues, children, animals, the planet, art, and music. I’ve always wanted to leave this place better off than how I found it. I’m probably not that different from you.

Deepak Chopra, one of my heroes and a generous source of wisdom in my life, talks about the importance of consciousness, of becoming more aware. I wanted to open up the full spectrum of my awareness to live better, exist better, and let a beaming rainbow of consciousness guide me on my life’s path.

Then I started thinking too much and felt like I was going loony tunes. When I start thinking too much like that, I get overwhelmed with the challenges in the world: disease, climate change, poverty, war, human suffering, animals suffering, species extinction… Where to begin? It’s enough to make Atlas himself keel over, drop the globe, and curl into a fetal position as the world goes bouncing off his shoulders and into the abyss.

So, I decided to dial that rainbow in a little. Start small but drop that damn periscope. Take a broad look around, then consider what you can control and influence, like your day-to-day choices, what media you’re paying attention to, what you’re consuming, what you’re buying… I had to give myself permission to drop the periscope, with its limited perspective, and let myself look down a kaleidoscope instead – a focused but colorful mix of inputs, in my own unique view, that I could turn and influence.

I suppose you could say a kaleidoscope became my quirky symbol for thinking globally and acting locally.

Tony Robbins, another one of my heroes and a limitless source of motivation in my life, talks about how you are what you focus on: “Where focus goes, energy flows,” Tony says. In the same vein, Oprah Winfrey (I can’t leave the divine Oprah out here!) says, “Your thoughts are your prayers.” We are all a product of our daily thoughts and day-to-day habits. And the state of our world today has become a manifestation of our collective human habits.

Like it or not, many of our habits center around consumption. And the way we consume, from how we eat to what we wear, is having a devastating impact on our own health, on other species, and the natural systems of our planet, which before we got here, had been divinely perfected over eons.

Animals and the Environment

Why is UniGuide all about eco-friendly and vegan living? The way I see things, it’s like taking care of children. Show me a culture anywhere in the world (leaving out, of course, the small segments of corrupt wack jobs, like weird cults, nihilists, perverts, and sociopaths who use children in warfare), and I’ll show you a culture that cares about its children.

I’m of the opinion that although human beings are the dominant species on the planet (mainly because of our ability to destroy everything), we have a responsibility to other species and their habitats in the same way that we have a responsibility to care for children. Not just our own children, but all children.

Sure, parents and society can mess up kids in all manner of ways, even when we don’t intend to. But loving, nurturing, and protecting kids can often overcome any unconscious failings. I think the number one job of parents and society at large is to love, nurture, and protect kids. I don’t have any biological kids of my own, but I still think it’s my responsibility as an adult to make sure kids are healthy and safe. I feel the same way about animals and our natural world.

Our job as adult humans is not to exploit and destroy those who are weaker than we are; it’s to love, nurture, and protect them. All over the world, when children are taken care of, everyone benefits. I believe when animals and nature are taken care of, we humans benefit.

In today’s world, we shouldn’t be exploiting one to protect the other. We no longer have to exploit animals to feed and clothe humans. Places where it’s still happening are behind the times. And with so many of our fellow species going extinct, and so many natural ecosystems, like coral reefs, collapsing – because of the actions of adult humans – we need to think of better ways of living.

The times of raping and pillaging the Earth are over. We are now in the technology innovation age.

We should be innovating and no longer exploiting and destroying. We humans have to stop killing the other species with whom we share this planet and quadruple our efforts to keep them alive and healthy. Eating meat, wearing animal skin, and dumping plastic into the ocean is not the way to do that. And it’s not healthy for us or our kids either.

I get that some people don’t have the same sensitivities to animals and nature that I do. The way I see it, we all come into this world with certain gifts. Sometimes we think those gifts are a curse because they can hurt. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an acute sensitivity to animals and nature. I can’t stand the idea of an animal being harmed or exploited, or the devastation that humans are doing to the paradise that is this planet we live on.

As a little girl growing up in Houston, Texas, instead of playing with my Easy Bake Oven (as my cooking skills today will attest), I was in our backyard, crouching over holes in the ground, waiting for little gray and yellow toads to come out so I could catch them. At the age of six, I must not have been all that sensitive to animals because I was completely oblivious to the fact that the reason the little toads were peeing in my hand is that they were terrified. Of course, I always set them free after they took a ride in Barbie’s convertible.

As I grew up and learned the ways of the world, I realized that a lot of animals are harmed by humans and, for better or worse, a lot of natural things are destroyed so humans can live better. Anyone who has a sensitivity, whether it’s to children, to older people, to people who are oppressed or sick, to animals, or anyone else, and is knowledgeable of the deeper issues around that sensitivity, will tell you it’s a painful awareness. Undoubtedly, it’s why so many of us numb ourselves out with food, alcohol, shopping, sex, or all of the above – because to feel can frigging hurt!

The danger is when our sensitivity (or, you can also call it awareness) renders us avoidant and, therefore, ineffective. We retreat or self-medicate (or both) instead of taking positive action. We are not using our gifts. And gifts are meant to be shared and exchanged. As we take action and teach each other about our sensitivities, we help each other become more aware – more conscious. If we all viewed the world through a lens of trying to simultaneously keep children, animals, and our planet healthy, I think we would create a better world for everyone.

Cool Stuff and Entrepreneurs

With all these lofty ideals, I admit, I also like cool stuff. I’m a consumer and I’m attracted to interesting and nice things.

How does one harmonize these two aspects of one’s personality? The consumer and the animal lover or environmentalist; the person who likes shoes but knows a lot of shoes are made with leather, which harms animals, workers, and the environment.

So that I can live with myself, I’m trying to be a better consumer. And with UniGuide, I’ll do my best to share what I learn.

A couple of ways I’m trying to be a better consumer:

  1. I’m now in the habit of pausing before I buy something. I take time to ask myself why I really want it, and will I want it and use it next year, and the year after that, and so on.
  2. If I am going to buy something, I try to be a more informed consumer. Are there alternatives that are not harmful, or at the least – less harmful to people, animals, and the environment? Sure, I’m promoting new things on UniGuide. But I’m also a huge fan of buying used stuff on Craigslist and eBay, and I’m a big believer in living a more minimalist life and the sharing economy too.

Businesses bow to the will of consumers. Better consumers inspire better businesses. Consumers hold all the cards, even though we don’t always realize it.

Along my journey to live life more in line with my values, I did some volunteer work for a then new nonprofit that would serve as an incubator for inventors and entrepreneurs who were trying to bring clean technologies to market.  The Cleantech Open (CTO) was a labor of love because it became another full-time job, only I didn’t get paid. (And truth be told, there were other immortal volunteers who worked harder and longer than I did.) But when I look back at the “work” of my life, helping to get the CTO off the ground is one of those endeavors of which I am the most proud.

What I learned through this experience is that the path of the entrepreneur can be one of the most perilous and grueling a person can take. Yet it became clear to me that the answers to some of the most complex problems of our day will come from entrepreneurs. I will always want to help the dreamers and the innovators, the underdogs and the social entrepreneurs.

In addition to cleantech, I see solutions coming from other sectors, including cottage industries. Artisans who are making shoes and dog collars from hemp and upcycled bicycle tires, entrepreneurs making recycled and biodegradable cell phone cases, and vegan chefs who are creating delicacies that even hardcore carnivores can’t resist – these are the change makers who are making the world better. I will sing their praises all day long.

You can say that UniGuide is both a commercial site promoting products and an exploratory travel journal of sorts, from a person who is trying to find the pot of gold (a world of healthier consumption) at the end of the rainbow – by looking through her kaleidoscope. I am by no means the perfect consumer, but I will never stop trying to be, and I will always share what I learn.

People, planet, animals – I love that win-win-win.

Kristen M. Stanton, Founder of UniGuide

 

 

 

 

 

 

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