Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Five GOOD Mother's Day Gifts

I have mixed feelings about Mother's Day.  The act of showing Mom your appreciation is a good thing, but all the hype and commercialization...not so much.  The holiday has morphed into a revenue bonanza for many retailers.  Most will spend a boatload of money over the next week or so trying to convince us that they have what mom REALLY wants.  As a Mom, I can say the gifts I've cherished most are inexpensive (or free) and not purchased at a Mother's Day retail promotion.  Spending time with Mom and finding out what's going on in her life is probably the best way to celebrate the day.  But I realize we all feel inclined to gift something (me included) so I've put together a list of five (plus a bonus five) Mother's Day gifts with a social purpose.  Honor your Mom this Mother's Day by showing her she's raised a kind, grateful and giving child.  Happy Mother's Day!

My FEED 10 Tote
1.  Godiva Chocolates - Their partnership with FEED Projects is a 'sweet' deal.  You can buy your Mom some heavenly truffles (who doesn't like chocolate?!) at a discount when you purchase the specially designed FEED 10 tote bag.  These totes were handmade by women in Liberia and the purchase of each will provide ten school meals to children in need.  Godiva hopes to provide 200,000 meals to children in cocoa-producing regions of Africa through this promotion.

Purchase here or at any Godiva location.

By St. Jude's Patient
2.  Loft Gift Card - Part of the Ann Taylor family of women's clothing stores, Loft is a long-time partner with St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.  For the fashion-forward Mom who likes to shop for herself why not get her one (or two) $25 Loft Cares gift cards.  Ninety percent of your gift card purchase will go directly to St. Jude's to help fight childhood cancers.

Available at a  Loft store near you.

The Farmer's Market
3.  Local Farmer's Market - This is my personal favorite.  It allows me quality time with my children while shopping for some amazing organic produce.  In Los Angeles County (my hometown) there are more than twenty Farmer's Markets on Mother's Day.  Support for local farmers and the slow-food movement have resulted in weekly markets popping up throughout the country.  If you and your Mom live in an area where this is an option, do it.  While you're there, pick up some veggies, cheese and eggs to bring home and prepare a simple veggie omelette for Mother's Day brunch.  Yum!

Easy Veggie Omelette Recipe

Mommy & Me Havaianas
4.  Havaianas Flip-Flops - Havaianas are by far the most comfortable and fashionable flip-flops on the market.  Just in time for Mother's Day, they've released their 'Mommy & Me' collection, four celebrity-designed prints for you and your daughter (or mom).  Ten percent of the sales from these matching mother/daughter flip-flops goes to Baby Buggy, a non-profit that provides essentials and educational services to children of families in need.  Choose designs from chic-Moms Courtney Cox, Rebecca Romijn, Nina Garcia and Tori Spelling.  Available online at www.us.havaianas.com and Nordstrom stores.

Available on-line and at Nordstrom stores.

One Hope Pink Perfection
5.  One Hope Wine Gift Basket - If distance prevents you from spending time with Mom, this may be the next best thing.  One Hope produces some tasty wines and 50% of the profit on every single bottle goes to a charity.  For Mother's Day I suggest sending Mom the 'Pink Perfection Gift Basket' benefitting Breast Cancer Research.  The natural woven wicker basket comes with two bottles of One Hope Chardonnay, Ghirardelli dark chocolates, biscotti, fudge, English tea cookies, Sonoma artisan cheese and Water pepper crackers.  Oh yeah...Mom will love this one!

One Hope Wine

The Bonus Five

1.  Levi Waterless Jeans - Fashionable and good for the environment.  Good fit for Moms.

2.  NB Sky101 Sneakers - Made from recycled plastic, gift these then take a walk with Mom.

3.  Papyrus Recycled Cards - If you must give a card, give Recycled.

4.  Warby Parker Eyewear - LOVE these buy-one-give-one!  Now available in prescription.

5.  Plant a Tree - Forego the flowers and plant a tree with Mom.  It's good for the environment too.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Ten Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

This Sunday, April 22nd, is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.  Officially dubbed 'International Mother Earth Day' by the UN, it is a worldwide event to increase awareness and appreciation of our Mother Earth.  I'll admit that I came late to the Earth Day celebration.  My lame excuse for not keying in sooner is that I was just too darned busy with family and career to pay attention.  What was all the fuss and jibber-jabber about eco-friendly products anyway?

Fast forward to today... I am keenly aware of the importance of protecting our environment.  I try to work eco-friendly products into my purchases which is no easy task.  It is a commitment that requires time spent in product research.  If you're scratching your head wondering how you would find the time, try taking a baby-step in the eco-friendly direction.  Celebrate Earth Day this Sunday by doing one eco-friendly activity.  And since this blog is about shopping (albeit with a social conscience) here is A Social Shopper's ten easy ways to celebrate Earth Day.

1.  Jack Johnson Best of Kokua Festival CD features live tracks with Dave Matthews, Eddie Vedder and more.  All proceeds benefit conservation groups in Jack's native Hawaii.  Available on itunes for $9.99.  If you've been to Hawaii you know it's worth preserving!  Great music for a great cause.

2.  Kiehl's Limited Edition Label Art series of skin care products in honor of Earth Day. Proceeds from the series will benefit Recycle Across America, a nonprofit organization with the mission of making it easier to reduce, reuse and recycle.  Available at Nordstrom.

3.  Caribou Coffee is the first ever major coffee company to offer 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee and espresso.  This coffee tastes great and can be found in most grocery chains.  Find out the importance of Rainforest Alliance.

4.  American Greetings lets you send a free Earth Day E-Card to a friend or loved one.  This e-card is beautifully designed complete with music to calm the soul and a John Muir quote to open the mind.

5.  Barnes & Noble features a bouquet of eco-friendly children's books so you can get your little ones keyed into Earth Day now.  These books teach kids about nature and the environment and inspire them to love and respect the earth and its resources.

6.  Target is handing out FREE recycle bags on Earth Day.   If you're not already using them you should be.  Get there early before they're gone

7.  Tom's Shoes offers sustainable styles.  This line of shoes is made with pesticide-free fabric, recycled and sustainable materials and they're vegan too!  Available in adult and kid sizes.  Tom's is once again ahead of the curve. 

8.  'One Day On Earth'  is a documentary about the amazing diversity, conflict, tragedy, and triumph that occurs in one 24-hour period on this planet.  Go to one of the many free screening events worldwide on Earth Day.  Here is a sneak peek result of this incredible project.

9.  Travelocity's Eco-Friendly Vacations offers 40% off if you book your summer vacation at a certified eco-friendly hotel.  Also check out all the eco-friendly vacation ideas thru their Travel for Good program.

10. Pottery Barn Kids is giving out packets of free sunflower seeds on April 21st and 22nd 
in association with National Geographic.  Get your seeds, plant your garden, and watch them grow.  This is a great activity for family bonding and a fun way to get your kids involved in Earth Day.
Happy Earth Day!


Monday, April 16, 2012

My Baby Bella

When I started this blog about shopping with a social conscience I committed to the idea of making it very easy for anyone to shop for GOOD.  And as stated in my very first post it was important that the items featured here be something a shopper might want or need.  The easiest path to social shopping would be to make sure the brands you currently purchase have a giving, philanthropic campaign.  Let me give you a real life example of how easy it can be to shop with a social conscience.

Like many Americans we have a pet that is considered part of our family.  Bella is not our 'dog’, she is our 'baby’ and caring for our baby can be expensive.  I figured since I had committed to spending $20 a month on food I ought to try to find a brand that gives back in some way.  Why not start with the brand I already use, Hill’s Science Diet?  Hill’s does not highlight any philanthropic efforts in their traditional marketing so I had to do some digging.  What I discovered was no less than admirable.

Bella at Play
Hill’s donates Science Diet pet food to shelters across the country through their Food Shelter & Love program.  Homeless pets in over 1,000 shelters get the nutrition they need to thrive.  Hill’s also promotes shelter adoptions with a goal of ‘giving 5 million more pets a home’.  Imagine my joy and relief in knowing I was already social shopping and making a difference with my pet food purchases.  No need to change brands which made my baby Bella very happy!

So start your search with the brands you already buy.  Make sure there is some sort of giving model that you support.  If not, find a brand that fits the bill.  If so, congratulations you’re already doing your part!

Check out Hill's  Food Shelter & Love to see how adopting a shelter animal can change your life forever.

The Company:  Hill's Science Diet
Products:  A wide variety of pet food including special needs
The GOOD Stuff:  Hill's does so much good work behind the scenes.  They promote shelter adoptions and provide shelters across the country with free food.
My Two Cents:  I really love what this company does - and all without thumping their chest about it.  There is a line of food for whatever your pet's special needs are.  Bella enjoys the small breed adult food.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Good To The Last Drop

My motto has always been everything in moderation.  A little of this, a bit of that and for the most part, it’s worked out well for me.  There is one major exception though…coffee.  There is no ‘little’ or ‘tad bit’ when it comes to my coffee consumption.  I have tried very hard to give up this daily boost of caffeine but have failed every single time.  I find myself searching for medical studies on the benefits of coffee (and they are out there my friends) – to justify this habit.  A stern warning (more like a threat) from my doc recently convinced me to cut back to one cup a day.  Full disclosure; I use a 10-ounce cup.  I savor that daily cup of java till the very last drop!

There is nothing like the smell of quality coffee when you first open that little bag.  I stick my nose in as far I can and take a big whiff.  The Pavlov effect kicks in immediately and my mouth starts to water in anticipation of what’s to come.  Yes, I guess I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to my coffee but when you only get one cup a day...it's gotta be great.  If the aroma isn't rich and earthy count me out.  That brings me to one of my most exciting social shopping 'finds', Peet's Anniversary Blend Coffee. Easy to find in the coffee aisle of my local grocery store, it stood out from the other brands with its pretty purple packaging and the '5% For Clean Water Access' water drop graphic.

Peet's Coffee is celebrating 46 years with the release of their 2012 Anniversary Blend.  I am not a Peetnik by any means (this is an actual term used for devout Peet's followers) but I absolutely love the taste of this coffee blend.  Peet's is contributing 5% of the proceeds from the sale of their Anniversary Blend to help establish reliable clean water access for the community that grows the beans.  The Korona Plantation is in Papua New Guinea where over 60% of the roughly 6.5 million people don't have access to clean water.  As it states right on the package, 'Drink a Great Cup Do a Good Thing'.  Couldn't agree more.

The Company:  Peet’s Coffee

Products:  Fresh roasted coffee and tea
The GOOD Stuff:  Not only is Peet's Coffee donating 5% of the proceeds from their 2012 Anniversary Blend to help the people who grow their coffee, the blend contains Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee beans.
My Two Cents:  Take it from a coffee connoisseur, this coffee is a delicious, satisfying way to help bring clean water to those who would otherwise go without.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Soft Hands Kind Heart

A bartender friend from way-back insisted he could tell a woman’s age by her hands.  Barely into my twenties at the time I gave him a skeptical laugh and insisted he was just being shallow.  These days I can’t recall this guy’s name but I clearly remember the comment.  Looking at my own hands I wonder how old he would peg me for today.

My skin is naturally oily thanks to my Italian heritage but I have poor circulation in my hands and feet.  As long as I can remember I’ve suffered from, as my mom used to lovingly call, ‘cold hands, warm heart’.  Because of this poor circulation, my hands easily become dry and scaly.  That’s why I’ve been slathering on hand cream for many years.  Let’s face it, even though there are a myriad of cosmetic procedures that can erase time from your face, you’re stuck with your hands.  Why do you think Madonna’s latest fashion incarnation includes fingerless gloves?!

There are plenty of hand creams from which to choose.  After all, it's a $50 billion industry!  As luck would have it some of the best products on the market can be found at The Body Shop.  Chances are you're already familiar with The Body Shop.  With nearly 3,000 locations in 61 countries the odds are pretty good that you have one within driving distance. This company has been on my radar for a very long time.  They were early adopters of using only natural ingredients and not using animal testing.  The Body Shop publishes an annual Living Our Values Report that will knock your socks off.  It serves as report card to consumers and a way to hold themselves accountable.

But wait...there's more!  My absolute favorite hand cream at The Body Shop has an additional philanthropic benefit.  Soft Hands Kind Heart Hand Cream smells fantastic; slightly sweet and earthy; and has my favorite ingredient in any body cream, olive oil.  Here's the GOOD stuff - 100% of the proceeds from the sale of SHKH goes toward putting an end to the sex trafficking of children.  Human trafficking is the third largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world.  Many celebrities have recently jumped on board in an effort to bring attention to this crisis.

Soft Hands Kind Heart Hand Cream is the perfect product for me!  It keeps my cold hands lubed up and young-looking (so I don't have to wear fingerless gloves), it smells fantastic, is available just about anywhere (in case I run out while traveling) and my purchase funnels money to organizations trying to end a worldwide crisis.  It doesn't get better than that!

Company:  The Body Shop
Products:  Creams and lotions for the body, shampoos and conditioners, perfume
The GOOD Stuff:  The Body Shop's core values:  Against animal testing, support community trade, activate self esteem, defend human rights and protect our planet.  Very ambitious stuff and they hold themselves accountable for delivering the goods.
My Two Cents:  Anything you buy from The Body Shop is a GOOD thing though I highly recommend you try the Soft Hands Kind Heart Hand Cream.  Until the docs find a way to reverse the aging process for our hands...this is a great way to stay lubed up!

IMPORTANT UPDATE:  I regret to inform you The Body Shop has recently discontinued this product.  May I recommend my original favorite TBS product, Hemp Hand Protector, made with Community Trade hemp seed oil and organic bees wax.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Have Bobble Will Travel

My family loves to travel!!  We're not the Jolie-Pitt clan but I'm proud to say our adventures have taken us all over the world.  Over the years we've experienced different cultures, languages, religions, histories and, we have learned HOW to travel.  Both of my children pack efficiently.  Each is accountable for his/her own suitcase and carryon bag.  We've got this travel-prep thing down to a science.  One of the items we do NOT leave home without, especially on international trips?  The Bobble.

The Bobble is a reusable water bottle that is functional and hip-looking.  This little baby allows you to filter your drinking water on the go!  Fill your Bobble with water from any local source and the replaceable, carbon-filter, takes out contaminants and produces a cleaner and crisper taste.  Wait, there's more!  The  material used to make the Bobble is BPA-free.  Why is that important?  The AMA (American Medical Association) has linked high levels of BPA to a host of ailments including heart disease and diabetes.  In fact products using BPA in their production (like most water bottles) are banned in some countries.  The chemical is completely banned in Canada.  Although the BPA-free feature is important to me, it is not the main reason I use the Bobble.  I'm sold on the fact that no matter where I am and what source is available I end up drinking clean, filtered water.

Need another reason to convert to the Bobble?  Check out this brief public service announcement from my nine-year old daughter who is an avid Bobble user:

The folks at Bobble describe it best as, "A functional design statement about the positive effect we all can have on the earth".  The Bobble comes in many cool colors and convenient sizes (we use the 13.5oz/375ml for travel) and they're easy to find.  We buy ours at Target or The Container Store.

Company:  Water Bobble
Products:  Reusable water bottles, jugs and lunch boxes
The GOOD Stuff:  Replaceable filter, BPA-free, recyclable, reusable, and very hip-looking
My Two Cents:  My fuchsia Bobble fits easily into my handbag and gives me great clean, great tasting water on the go.

Check it out!

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Classic Little Black Dress

Like many executives I developed a taste for fine wine early in my career.  Business dinners at the restaurant of the moment would invariably include an obscenely expensive Cabernet Sauvignon, silky-smooth with dense blackberry aromas accented by a vanilla quality from aged French oak barrels.  Soon enough I began buying 'the good stuff' for home consumption.  My makeshift home wine cellar stocked such distinguished labels as Caymus, Jordan, Stag's Leap and for those very special occasions Silver Oak and Opus One.  I mean it folks...this is really great tasting stuff!

So what's a former executive and wine snob to do when the goose stops laying the golden eggs?  Granted, my home consumption diminished drastically once I lost the stress that came with being in charge of hundreds of people and millions of dollars.  Still, an occasional glass of wine with dinner can pleasure the palate and calm the mind.  What's a gal to do?...

On one of my trips down the cheap wine isle I saw, hidden behind stacked cases of a displayed wine, a bottle of Little Black Dress.  The label of this Merlot caught my attention initially as it was simple and chic, like a classic LBD should be.  To make matters more promising it was on sale and well under my budget.  I bought it, tasted it and liked it.  But here's the best part!..after some research I discovered that Little Black Dress (owned by Brown-Forman) is a long-term partner of Dress for Success Worldwide.  Dress for Success is an amazing non-profit that promotes career development for disadvantage women.  The partnership includes plenty of fundraising events including fashion shows and celebrity-donated little black dress auctions.

Little Black Dress with their variety of great tasting wines and new line of flavored vodkas is 'Libation Innovation with a Nod to Doing Good.'  It's the perfect item to add to your social shopping list!