Charleston, but make it ethical.

It’s that time of year! The time when our summer schedules fill up fast with friends and family coming in from out of town. They come to see us of course, but mostly they come for the great weather, the beaches, and our beautiful and historic city.

It’s no secret that Charleston is an amazing place to visit – that’s part of what drew us here in the first place! Between all the sights to see and all the restaurants to eat at, it’s a popular place to be this time of year.

But, the longer I live here the more problems I see in our tourism industry…

I recently released an episode dedicated specifically to being a more mindful traveler. Erin from the Alpaca My Bags Podcast taught me 10 key ways that we can be more responsible in our travels whether they are domestic or abroad. This interview still sticks in my mind and has my wheels turning as to how I can practice her tips even at home. You can check out that interview here if you missed it!

For those of you thinking about planning a trip this way, I wanted to create a quick guide for how you can see and experience all that Charleston has to offer but do it in a more mindful way. Here are my best tips for visiting the Holy City and keeping it ethical!

When you’re packing for your trip, BYOB!

No, I’m not talking about booze – we have plenty of that down here! Instead, bring your own reusable bag!

One thing you may be privy to see while you’re here is some of our sea life – that includes oysters, crabs, dolphins, and sea turtles.

Fun fact: sea turtles help to keep our oceans a little safer for swimmers because their diet consists mainly of jelly fish! But, what looks exactly like a jelly fish when it’s floating in the water?

You guessed it – plastic bags. Some of the cities in the Charleston area have already passed laws banning single-use plastics like straws and bags. Still, we have a ways to go. You can help to keep our sea turtles healthy and our oceans clean by skipping the plastic bags while shopping and bringing your own instead. If you forget, make sure to ask for paper when you do go to the store! (And bring your own straw while you’re at it!)

Now, speaking of sea turtles…

Check out the South Carolina Aquarium.

Located in the heart of downtown, the Aquarium is popular for kids and adults alike. They offer interactive experiences where you can touch the sting rays and learn about all kinds of aquatic life. But my favorite part about the Aquarium is the Sea Turtle Care Center where experts are rehabbing sick and injured turtles.

You can buy your tickets with confidence when you visit the Aquarium knowing that a large part of your money will be going towards conservation efforts like caring for wildlife and reducing plastic pollution.

If you’re looking for more wildlife experience while visiting, make sure to check out the Charles Towne Landing Zoo in West Ashley where you can observe animals native to this region of the U.S. in their natural habitats.

Next, while speaking of wild animals…

Skip the carriage ride and opt for a walking tour instead.

While you’re walking around downtown, you’ll see plenty of folks enjoying a carriage ride pulled by some beautiful horses. Tempting – especially in this heat and humidity!

But, once you learn about the exploitation of these working horses you will see why these tours just aren’t worth it.

According to the Charleston Carriage Horse Advocates, a non-profit organization working for better treatment for these animals, the horses working in downtown Charleston have some of the most hazardous conditions in the country. Between the Carolina heat and the large loads they are forced to carry, there have been countless accidents and injuries to these wild creatures.

The organization accepts donations if you want to help do something about it, but the best thing you can do is opt out of one of these tours and spread the word when you hear of people considering them!

Instead, check out one of our many walking tours. You can find day time and evening tours of all kinds, even haunted ones if that’s your sort of thing! Personally, our favorite tour guide is Steve with Lowcountry Walking Tours because he is a native Charlestonian. Whatever company you pick, make sure to ask if it’s locally owned and operated.

And on that note…

Choose local restaurants and shops!

You’re in one of the greatest cities in the world when it comes to food options, so why would you pick Starbucks when you could support a local coffee shop instead?!

Any time you travel, you can help to boost local economies and support small businesses by choosing the local shop over the big business. This is especially true when it comes to our restaurants and shopping options!

There are quite literally hundreds of restaurants to choose from here. If you’re wanting seafood, it’s even more important to choose local to ensure that you’re getting the most sustainably caught (and most delicious) fresh fish.

Some apps, like Uber, now even have filters to help identify local Black-owned restaurants.

Finding local eateries is pretty easy, but shopping can be a different story. Beware of the big name stores located in the tourist areas, like King Street, that will lure in any travelers. Instead, opt for the small boutiques or the shops in the City Market for your souvenirs!

After you’ve gotten your fill of eating and shopping (if that’s even possible), it’s time to get outside…

Leave the beach cleaner than you found it.

Our favorite outdoor activity here is sticking our toes in the sand at one of our beautiful beaches. Folly and Isle of Palms are both great options, but Sullivan’s is our personal favorite!

Recent years have proven successful in efforts to keep our beaches clean, which is especially important for our turtles as we know. When you visit the beach, be diligent in cleaning up all your trash and not letting things get blown away in the sea breeze.

Even better, bring an extra bag to collect other trash you find! Then, it’s time to really get out on the water…

Kayaking > Speed Boating

If boating is more your thing, might I suggest skipping the fuel-powered boats?

It’s no secret that boats guzzle up a lot of gasoline. Not only that, but marine scientists have even found that boats with motors on them cause noise pollution in the ocean that is detrimental to sea life communication.

If you’re wanting to spend some time on the water, there are plenty of outfitters who will rent you kayaks to explore and even go fishing. Our favorite is in Shem Creek.

Looking for something requiring a little less physical labor? Check out a sailboat cruise off the harbor. Of course, you could always skip the sea and stay on the dry land instead…

Bypass the plantations.

Another popular activity in Charleston is visiting many of the beautiful grounds on former plantations. These plantation sites hold a lot of history as well as gorgeous gardens.

While they make for a pretty view, it’s worth considering where you’re putting your money when you pay the entrance fees at these sites…

Some of the plantations, such as Magnolia, have been passed down through generations of families and are still owned by the descendants of former slave owners. A critical eye may look at this and think that these families are still profiting off of slavery, even if it is just through a historical lens.

If you want to check out some gardens that are guilt-free, visit Cypress Gardens in Moncks Corner! With over 3 miles of walking paths and boat rentals available, this county-owned nature preserve is a great way to get outdoors and experience some of the beautiful nature the Lowcountry has to offer.

There you have it – a few tips for reducing your footprint when you come to visit Charleston!

Been to Chucktown before? Comment below with other ways to see the sites ethically!

For even more mindful traveling ideas, make sure to check out my episodes with Erin before you take your next vacay, wherever it may be.

Are you REALLY cleaning your fruits and veggies?

We all know we’re supposed to clean our produce before we eat it. But, does a quick rinse in the sink really qualify as “cleaning”?

The answer is no.

First, rinsing under cold water for a few seconds isn’t going to kill the germs left on your produce from all the pairs of hands that touched it before it got to your house. Yuck!

Rinsing under cold water also doesn’t rid your produce of the toxic pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and ripening agents that our food is farmed with. Double yuck!

So, what should we be doing?

There are plenty of great (and not so great) brands out there that make fruit and veggie washes for purchase. But, if you want to save a little money (and reduce a little plastic waste), there are a few options that you can make yourself at home with some pretty basic ingredients!

If you search for fruit and veggie washes online, you’ll find tons of different recipes and proportions. These are a few of my favorites, though, for the different types of produce you might be buying.

First, let’s start with a simple vinegar soak.

This method is ideal for softer fruits and some vegetables that you eat the skin of. I prefer this option for berries, in particular.

Ingredients:

  • Water
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Lemon (optional)

The amounts you’ll need will depend on how much produce you’re looking to wash, but generally you want 4 parts water to 1 part vinegar. Combine those two together and add some lemon juice if desired. Add the mixture to a large bowl with the produce – you should have enough to cover the produce completely.

Allow the mixture to sit for at least 10 minutes, then drain and rinse. You can leave it soaking for much longer if desired (I’ve left it for up to an hour before!) and it won’t affect the flavor of the produce at all. After rinsing, allow the produce to air dry before storing in the refrigerator.

If you’re working with leafy greens, another type of vinegar soak might be better.

Ingredients:

  • Water
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Salt

The secret ingredient of salt in this mixture helps to pull out dirt and other nasties that are difficult to get off of things like broccoli, kale, and lettuce.

As with the first recipe, you’ll want to combine 4 parts water to 1 part vinegar. Add the greens and solution to a bowl, and make sure you have enough liquid to cover the veggies. Next, add 1 tablespoon of salt for every cup of vinegar used.

Allow the mixture to sit for about 5 minutes. Depending on what type of veggie this is, you don’t want to leave it sitting for too long to prevent wilting. Drain and rinse the produce, and either allow to air dry or use a salad spinner to dry out. This method is best done just before you’ll be using the greens.

Lastly, if you’re working with hardier produce, a fruit and veggie scrub may be the best approach.

I prefer this option for produce that may require scrubbing and that you would eat the skins of. Think potatoes, apples, and squash.

Ingredients:

  • Water
  • Baking soda
  • Lemon (optional)

You will need a spray bottle for this approach! Start by combining 1 cup of water, 1 tablespoon of baking soda, and 1 tablespoon of lemon. The lemon is not necessary, but it will give the spray a nice, foamy consistency if added. Increase amounts as needed.

Gently shake the spray bottle to combine ingredients and spray your produce. (Hint: It’s easiest if you have them placed in a colander prior to spraying.) Allow the produce to soak for about 5 minutes, then rinse. If you have a vegetable brush, scrub before rinsing to get off any excess dirt or wax.

Note: For produce that you will not be eating the skin of but will be cutting into, like an avocado, it’s still important to give a thorough wash. Germs and bacteria from the skin of the produce can be transferred as the knife cuts through the skin.

There you have it – 3 easy methods for cleaning your produce with common household ingredients! I know that plenty of people have their own full-proof methods or strategies, like adding essential oils or other fun ingredients, so feel free to comment below with more ideas!

Celebrating Black History in February and Beyond

I used to think Black history was talking about slavery.

I still think it’s important to acknowledge because, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1967,
“Now America must hear about its sins because we will never understand what is happening in this country today without understanding that we are now reaping the harvest of terrible evil planted by seeds centuries ago.”

But slavery isn’t just Black history. It’s white history, too. And Black history started long before slavery did.

Black history is so much more. It’s celebrating all the success, the innovation, and the brilliance of Black culture.

That’s something we should be doing year-round – not just in February.

That’s why I’m writing this at the end of the month. I wanted to give you something practical you could do to celebrate the achievements of Black people that extends far beyond the month of February. Normally, I would be sending out a list of books and documentaries and other resources I think you should explore to honor this month. But this time, I’m taking a different approach.

Thanks to the pandemic, we’ve seen an increase in the attention given to small businesses – wahoo!

There are millions of small businesses out there that could use our support, but there’s also minority-owned businesses that perhaps deserve it even more. I’m talking about female-owned, BIPOC-owned, and the like.

So, I’ve compiled a list of Black-owned businesses that I think are worth supporting in honor of BHM. These stores aren’t just places to support in February, and I’m not even saying that you should go buy something from them right now just because they’re Black-owned.

What I’m saying is that we should incorporate purposefully supporting Black-owned businesses into our everyday lives.

Maybe the next time you need a product from this list, you’ll revisit this post and pay a little more in shipping fees than you would on Amazon Prime to support a Black-owned business. And really, this thinking extends far beyond Black-owned businesses. I want to honor all kinds of minorities who are hustling hard. But, in an effort to celebrate those successes and that innovation I was mentioning earlier, here’s something small you can incorporate into your mindful consumer shopping habits.

Ethical & Sustainable Black-Owned Businesses:

  1. Evergreen Baby

Small business started by two Black mothers that offers eco-friendly baby products.
https://www.evergreen.baby/

2. Plant Apothecary

Clean, organic, and cruelty-free self-care products made from plant-based materials.
https://plantapothecary.com/

3. Oh Happy Dani

Digital artwork encouraging faith and inspiring justice.
https://ohhappydani.com/

4. Mented Cosmetics

Vegan, cruelty-free, and non-toxic beauty products designed to work with every skin tone.
https://www.mentedcosmetics.com/

5. Austin Nature Works

Safe and eco-friendly wooden children’s toys crafted by hand from sustainable materials.
https://www.austinnatureworks.com/

6. Clare Paint

High quality indoor paints made without toxic solvents that pollute the air and pose health risks.
https://www.clare.com/

7. Tal & Bert

Husband and wife team creating modern cement homewares using raw materials.
https://talandbert.com/

8. Black Vibe Tribe

Clothing brand started by a 14 year-old with messages designed to connect, love, uplift, and build.
https://www.blackvibetribe.com/

9. Love Your Neighbor

Children’s books and other merch spreading a much-needed message.
https://www.loveyourneighborbrand.com/

10. Gehati

Soy candles and other natural fragrance products – featured on episodes 14 & 15 of the podcast!
https://www.gehati.com/

11. Kindred Paper Co.

Meaningful greeting cards printed on recyclable materials.
https://ourkindredpaper.com/

12. Eu’Genia Shea

Family-run company creating safe and all-natural shea butter products with a give-back model.
https://eugeniashea.com/

13. Agaati

Fair-trade fashion designed with the enviornment in mind.
https://agaati.com/

14. Turning Page Bookshop

The only Black and female-owned book store in the state of SC. You can subscribe to this audio book platform while still supporting their shop.
https://libro.fm/users/new

15. Naja

Ethically and sustainably made intimates with a give-back program.
https://www.naja.co/

I would love more recommendations! What minority-owned businesses do you love supporting?

Valentines Shopping Done Right

It’s almost that time of year! Whether or not you celebrate Valentines Day, there’s no denying that it’s a popular time to shop. According to Statista, the most popular V-Day gifts are:

  • Candy
  • Greeting cards
  • Flowers
  • A romantic dinner out

No surprises here. But, there’s a better way to buy each of these items than just going to your local grocer and getting the best deal you can find.

If you’re the giver or receiver (or maybe buying in bulk for your Galentines Day party), consider these ways of making your Valentines shopping a little more ethical this year!

  1. Candy

Personally, I’m a sucker for anything chocolate. If you’re the same way, this is an easy one. Look for Fair Trade Certified!

I actually did a whole podcast episode dedicated to this topic. You can listen to it here. But the gist is, fair trade chocolate is better for the planet and for the people. It ensures that cocoa bean harvesters (usually living in underdeveloped countries) are paid fairly for their work and that the production process is safer and more sustainable. Buying fair trade is a little more expensive, but that’s because it’s fair.

There are tons of great brands that sell fair trade choc – plenty of which you can find in your average grocery store. A few of my favorites are Endangered Species Chocolate, Equal Exchange Chocolate, and Tony’s Chocolonely. There are tons of others out there, though, and more and more mainstream brands are making the switch to go fair trade.

When in doubt, look for the logo!

Image result for fair trade certification

For the sweet and sour candy lovers out there who aren’t chocolate fans, there’s a couple other things to look out for. Primarily, it’s about checking the ingredient labels.

Many of the chewy, fruity candies out there contain palm oil – an ingredient that is contributing to major deforestation of our rainforests. Skittles are one example of a candy that contains this ingredient.

For the animal rights activists, gelatin is another ingredient to watch out for. But have no fear, there are still plenty of popular candy choices out there that don’t contain either of these items! Sour Patch Kids and Dots are two examples. Just remember to check the ingredient labels before you buy.

One last thing to pay attention to when you buy sweets is it’s packaging. When you can, look for boxed candy instead of bagged, or paper-wrapped chocolate instead of plastic.

2. Greeting Cards

My husband and I always prefer homemade cards. I just can’t stomach paying $5 (or even more) for a card I’ll look at once!

But hey, if your a words person and greeting cards are one way to speak your love language, there’s one main thing to look for. Recyclable cards.

Actually, most greeting cards are already recyclable! According to Recycle Nation, the only things you need to watch out for are the cards with non-paper additives. This would be things like metallic foil, glitter, felt, metal charms, and rhinestones. Keep it simple and stick to the plain-paper products this year.

Oh, and photo paper can’t be recycled, either – so try to avoid that.

If you want to go big, there are a couple great brands to check out. My personal favorite is Paper Culture. Not only is this brand mindful of their carbon emissions, but they plant a tree for every order placed.

Tree-Free is another pretty cool company that prints everything on alternative and/or recycled materials.

Of course, you can always be extra eco-conscious and send a digital card instead!

3. Flowers

Who doesn’t love getting a fresh bouquet of beautiful florals?! But, the flowers you may be buying most likely came from overseas. It’s estimated that 80% of the flowers sold in US supermarkets are being shipped in from other countries. Not only is this creating a huge carbon footprint due to shipment, but it’s typically not supporting sustainable farming practices in the country of origin.

Smithsonian Magazine did a whole article on this topic. If you want to learn more about the dirty secrets behind the floral industry, you can read about it here.

But if you want to skip straight to what you can do about it, here are my tips:

First, skip the supermarket and instead buy from your local florist. Not only are you shopping small, but there’s greater chances of these flowers being grown locally and with fewer pesticides. This is something that I highly recommend asking about – where do they get their flowers, and do they support organic farming practices? (Hint: the farmer’s market is a great place to look for florals!)

Second, ask for plastic-free. You can actually bring a vase with you to the florist and have them put your fresh cuts directly in there. You can also opt for paper wrapping over the typical cellophane.

Last but not least, consider giving a plant over fresh cuts. This could be an indoor houseplant or something they can plant in the garden. A plant will last much longer (so long as the recipient can keep it alive) whereas bouquets only last a week or so. You can still support the local flower shop (or nursery) with this type of purchase – ask for their help in picking out the perfect plant for your special someone!

4. Dinner

Experiences will always trump gifts, in my opinion! Not only are they more memorable, but they’re more sustainable! Let’s be honest, none of us need more stuff.

Plus, this gift requires very little prep work ahead of time! My primary suggestion here is to choose local over chain.

Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Red Robin fries – but, especially in the Covid-era, local businesses need our support. Check out the locally-owned and operated eateries in your area for Valentines Day and feel good about where you’re spending your money.

Even if you’re keeping your romantic dinner at home this year, you can get takeout from a local joint or even look to support local farmers, bakeries and brewers with where you buy your ingredients.

If you’re looking to get creative…

…and go beyond the typical Valentines gifts, Emily over at The Honest Consumer put together a wonderful Valentines Gift Guide full of ethical and sustainable gift ideas for him or her. Check it out for more ideas!

Homemade Hand Sanitizer (Yes, it kills the ‘rona.)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…if I had known that making hand sanitizer was this simple, I would’ve started doing it years ago! But, I guess a global pandemic was the kick in the pants I really needed.

Now, if I were a savvy business woman, I wouldn’t be telling you how easy this DIY is. Instead, I’d be making it in bulk and trying to sell you my “All Natural Hand Antiseptic Spray.” But, that’s not me. And actually, I would love it if you started making this yourself because you could help reduce plastic waste!

If I could total up all the plastic I’ve tossed over the years (especially in 2020) from those little bottles of pocket-size hand sanitizer, it would be A LOT of waste! One of my favorite parts about this DIY, though, is that you can keep reusing the bottles! Wahoo!

Not only will you help reduce your waste by following this recipe, but you’re going to save yourself some moolah, too. I’ve calculated out that each 1oz batch of DIY hand sanitizer costs approximately 69 cents…and that’s rounding up!

Not sure about you, but I haven’t seen anything in the store for that cheap!

And of course, another thing I love about this recipe is that it’s safe for your skin. Did you know that the average bottle of Purell has 13 ingredients in it? Yes, 13! But, why?! All we really need is the alcohol to kill the germs…

Most of these are ingredients that I can’t pronounce and that I can only assume are only there to preserve what’s in the bottle, since the first ingredient is water…

Some of the other ingredients include artifical fragrance (bleh! It doesn’t even smell good!) and blue and yellow dyes (double bleh!).

Sure, it kills the germs, but I have to ask…what else is it killing along the way?

Have no fear, my super simple and super safe hand sanitizing recipe is here! Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. An empty spray bottle – you can purchase new glass bottles online, or reuse any old spray bottle you may already have. I prefer 1oz size for on-the-go.
  2. Aloe Vera Gel (optional) – this serves as a moisturizer for your hands, but it can be skipped if you want to keep it even more simple.
  3. Witch Hazel (optional) – witch hazel has natural disinfectant properties, but I like it because it helps cut down on the strong alcohol scent.
  4. Isopropyl Alcohol – AKA rubbing alcohol. You want at least 70% to help kill viruses.
  5. Essential Oils – technically these are also optional, but I recommend it so you don’t go around smelling like alcohol all day. Pick any scent you prefer, or look specifically for an immune-supportive blend. I like Germ Fighter from Plant Therapy.
  6. Labels (optional) – I like putting cute labels on my bottles, but you can keep it as simple as writing on them with a permanent marker. Just make sure you label it somehow so you don’t get it mixed up with your facial toner or contact solution!

How to prepare:
(Please note – this recipe is for a 1oz bottle. Adjust amounts as needed.)

  1. Make sure your bottles are cleaned out and ready to go. If you’re using glass, you can simply run them through the dishwasher to disinfect.
  2. Add 1 tsp of aloe gel and 2 tsp of witch hazel, if desired.
  3. Fill the bottle nearly to the top with the alcohol.
  4. Add in your essential oils. I find that 5-10 drops does the trick, but you can add in more if you like a stronger scent.
  5. Put the cap back on the bottle and shake it up. If you used aloe gel, you will need a little extra umph to get all the ingredients mixed well.
  6. Label away!

There you have it – your very own homemade batch of hand sanitizer! Told you it was easy, didn’t I?

It’s worth noting that I don’t measure out my proportions exactly, instead I eyeball them to keep things super simple. The most important thing is that you have rubbing alcohol in there because that’s what really kills the germs. The rest is mainly for texture and scent, so know that you have the freedom to adjust amounts as you prefer.

Tell me – what scents do you like for your hand sanitizer? Lately I’ve been loving a cinnamon scent to go along with the chilly holiday weather!