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In a last-minute scramble to stuff stockings and snag the perfect little something for your secret Santa exchange, the last thing on your mind might be shopping ethical brands. But actress and activist Sophia Bush would have you press pause on two-day shipping in favor of finding more sustainably sourced products—gorgeous totes, necklaces, and clothing items that support women and protect the environment.

“There is so much stuff in the market today,” Bush told Glamour. With big-box stores and online marketplaces offering overflowing shelves stocked with the latest trends—some even at deep discounts—it’s all too easy to load up our carts with things we know little or nothing about. Consumers, Bush says, “don’t have as much information on where stuff comes from as we have access to that stuff.”

Brands that aren’t ethically sourced often come with a hefty price tag you won’t see on your receipt. Their production and sale, even inadvertently, may support poor working conditions, low wages and child labor, and negatively impact the environment. But Bush has good news: “When you start looking at ways to change the negative impact that you’re having in the market and your carbon footprint,” she says, “one of the most exciting and inspiring things you can do is get in touch with artisan communities and shop ethical brands.”

She continues, “There are changes possible on so many levels: There’s a chance to positively impact the environment by lowering the emissions we’re producing, there’s the potential to get children out of child labor, there’s the potential to take people out of slave labor—this is all major stuff. And most people aren’t even aware that the blouse or bag they’re buying is supporting any of those enterprises.”

The ethical brands Bush supports—her favorites include 31 Bits, Akola Project, and Sseko Designs—use sustainably sources materials, she says, “and practice ethical business standards. They are employing women and giving them artisanal training that transforms not only their own lives, but their communities.”

Ready to start shopping ethically? Here are Bush’s top tips:

1. Find a cause you care about. Whether you’re heart lies with helping children or aiding the disabled, there’s a cause linked to a brand you’ll love. “For anyone who wants to start looking at ways to turn their shopping footprint into something more ethical, start with a cause that resonates with you and look for brands that support that cause,” advises Bush. For example, if you care about enabling women to pursue their dreams, consider shopping one of Sophia’s favorite brands, 31 Bits. Each of its female artisans receives health education, finance training, counseling, and business training as part of a five-year program with the accessories retailer.

2. Discover items on Instagram. “I always joke that I wind up in an Instagram hole—just like in Alice in Wonderland, where they go down the rabbit hole,” Bush laughs. “I find that when I am looking at ethical brands’ pages, there’s a domino effect and I discover so many other options by starting on a single page.” By viewing one of her favorite ethical designer’s Instagram posts, Bush explains, she may find another brand tagged she then wants to follow—and soon, her wish list is full of must-have, ethically sourced items.

3. Google it. The easiest and quickest way to gain information on ethical brands may be the same way you’d discover anything else: Online. “You can also do a simple Google search of conscious brands,” suggests Bush, who also often uses the website Conscious Commerce to discover new designers. The website, founded by Barbara Burchfield and Olivia Wilde, highlights ethical products with a positive impact on the environment and local communities. “There,” says Bush, “I can look at all of the brands they work with and find companies I know are doing it right.”

Of course, if you simply want to steal Bush’s style—and who wouldn’t?—you could start by purchasing one of her favorite ethically sourced products. It’s her Sseko Designs travel bag, which she often uses as she travels to-and-from Chicago to film Chicago P.D. “I’ll get stopped by someone at the airport who will say, ‘I love your carry-on—where is it from?'” Bush says. “And I get to tell the story of the amazing women who made it.”

Source: Glamour

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