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deliberateLIFE engages today's globally-conscious citizen in building a better tomorrow. We believe choices matter – so we vet ideas, products and organizations to make it easier for today's busy professionals to live well and do good.







Chocolate Made the Loving Way

Annmarie Rodriguez


When one thinks of the most typical Valentine's Day gifts, chocolates immediately come to mind and not just every day chocolates, but boxes of beautifully presented, specialty chocolates that, when given, will communicate love at best, or fulfill cultural expectations at least. According to a 2009 Nielsen report, Americans purchased around 58 million pounds (over $345 million USD) of Valentine's Day chocolates prior to the holiday!

Although chocolate has a long history of notoriety, there is a bitter side to its sweet story. Just as slavery is known to exist in the production of cotton, steel, oriental rugs, diamonds and silk, cocoa production also lends itself to exploitative labor. Child labor and bonded slaves are often used in the harvesting of the cacao pods. According to a US government-funded study, over 1.8 million children work in West Africas cacao industry. Many of these children are subject to unsafe working conditions. This unsavory reality has stirred activists and businesses alike to seek solutions.

Consumers who wish to enjoy guilt-free treats now have many options available to them. Possibly the easiest way to ensure that your chocolate is ethically produced is to buy Fair Trade certified products. The Fair Trade certified label guarantees that the farmers who were involved in growing the raw materials in your chocolate receive fair prices for their crops. It also ensures that slave labor and child labor were not used during the production cycle. You can check out Fair Trade USAs website for a list of chocolate manufacturers.

It is important to note, however, that there are companies making ethically sourced produces that, for financial reasons, choose to forgo the Fair Trade certification process. These companies may choose to develop relationships directly with farmers, monitor their own supply chain and label their products ‘direct trade’ or ‘ethically’ made. The benefit of direct trade, some argue, is that producers can pay higher prices to farmers due to the savings incurred by not going through the certification process.

While we at deliberateLIFE are strongly in favor of producers receiving the best possible price, we do encourage supporting companies that undergo external evaluation of their supply chain to maintain transparency.

Note: Organic products are definitely better for the environment and for one’s health, but it’s important to note that ‘organic’ is not synonymous with ‘slave-free’.

Through Discomfort to Connection

Fay Johnson

Fay M. Johnson, Editor-in-Chief | Yesterday I headed to the airport and hopped on a plane to Burbank. Our first event in Los Angeles, a dinner discussion (part of our Deliberate Discourse series) was to be held that night in Los Feliz. Upon arrival to Southern California, I headed to the store, picked up last minute items for our evening and began preparations with our host, Davey, and the chef for the evening, Scott. We set up tables and chairs, cleaned and placed flowers on the tables.

An hour later we kicked off our 5th dinner on the topic of race in America. Just as we have started each dinner, I welcomed our guests and asked them to reflect on their intentions for the evening. Participants expressed the following: they were there to learn, to be present, to increase in understanding and to connect with others. I then asked them to express in one word how they were currently feeling about the issue. They expressed feeling: Frustrated. Hopeless. Stuck. Angry. Isolated. Overwhelmed. As they shared how they were currently feeling, the conversation naturally shifted into talk about recent events from the last six months. I noted how similar their feels were to those expressed by other Deliberate Discourse attendees in Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose. Many of us are unsure about how to deal with racism, institutional injustice, and other harmful divisions.

One thing that has surfaced over the last five dinners is how much discomfort keeps us from connecting and potentially learning from one another. There is a high level of fear associated with talking about race. Euro-Americans expressed high levels of 'white guilt' and a consequential fear of speaking up because they don't really know where they fit into the conversation. Some expressed fear of stepping on toes, saying the wrong thing, or having their intentions misunderstood. Our African-American attendees have spoken frequently about not wanting to be perceived as the 'angry black' woman or man in the room. Sometimes they hesitate to speak out against racist comments in a desire to 'keep the peace'. A few black, Caribbean and African-born guests shared how they have had to navigate their relationships with black Americans that they do not share a common history (but do share a common reality) with. At every dinner someone has admitted that they almost didn't come because they were fearful of how the night would go.

I have admitted at each dinner how I too have to push through my fear of saying or doing the wrong thing, or asking the wrong question, to fully engage. Having had the privilege of being at most of our dinners, it is getting easier to sit with this discomfort. Every time I have asked a question, despite my fear of coming across as potentially offensive, I have been met with a kind and thoughtful reply. This has encouraged me to sojourn on into deeper conversation and understanding. At each dinner we divide attendees into groups of 5 or 6 to maximize everyone's participation. At this dinner, my group discussed terminology that wasn't common to everyone in our circle. This topic, in a different setting, might have been glossed over. I am grateful for those who asked honest questions and for those who shared their perspective within the group.

The structure of our LA dinner was just like the rest – provide good food, a safe space, a few questions and time. By 10:45 pm (we were scheduled to end at 9:30 pm) we had all gathered around the fire to share how our separate group conversations had gone, what we had learned and how we felt. Every person present had a different experience with race, racial identity and the diversity of social interaction. Sisters who attended shared how one had no black friends and the other had no white friends despite having grown up in the same home and both being black. Books were suggested. Movies were analyzed (leave it up to LA to be the only dinner that brought in a film critique to make a point). And encouragement was given.

A big take away? Everyone needs to participate. Black Americans only make up 12.6% of the US population, as one black guest pointed out. Creating changes at a national level will require white participation. Those unsure of what role to play were asked to actively participate in taking off their own blinders and to work towards countering white dominance in their environments. Though it is not always an easy task, naming and talking about racism also removes a portion of the power it has in a given situation. The best next step for conversations like these, and for this issue in general, is to continually push through the discomfort created by the unknown, to talk and to engage. 

Our next conversations will take place in Portland on the 15th and Chicago on the 25th.

Around the Table

Fay Johnson

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It's in our name – we believe in fully considered action. To help foster this considered choice, deliberateLIFE is launching a series of events to facilitate face-to-face discussion between community members, providing an opportunity for deeper engagement on topics that affect us all.

Reasoned discussion where points of view are made clearly and received freely is hard to find in our current world. We believe it's sorely needed, so we're bringing the conversation offline and surrounding it with food, film, poetry, motion, and more.

Dinner Series 1: Race, Justice & Equality

In the wake of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and countless other deaths that haven't made the news, our first Deliberate Discourse series will focus on race, justice and equality.

It only takes a quick skim of one's Facebook feed or the nightly news to know we have come to a tipping point. The status quo is no longer acceptable and complacency isn't an option. No U.S. citizen wants to live in a country where a particular group of people have to fear those charged with serving and protecting them. Nor do we want to live in a society that ignores the injustices of bias, privilege and racism.

With no particular prescription in mind, we are inviting you, our community, to join us for some deliberate discourse on a topic that can be difficult to navigate. By hosting dinners where friends and strangers alike can meet, in a safe space, we hope to foster a deeper dialog than the one we are afforded online.

If you are interested in attending an upcoming dinner, check our events page or contact us to request a dinner in your city.

Play: Alternative Learning on the Job

Fay Johnson

By Emily Brooks

You may be comfortably established in your 9 to 5, with school a quickly fading memory, but the need to learn did not cease when you hung that diploma on your wall. Continual learning keeps you competitive and relevant at your job and provides you with the needed resources to make valuable contributions to your community. Many companies facilitate this continued development through training programs, corporate universities, and lunchtime seminars. However, they are also discovering that great learning happens through play. From gaining vital communication skills to increased creativity and team collaboration, companies are turning to play to build their workforce’s potential.  

Significant learning can be accomplished when “hiding really important lessons inside of fun,” said Michelle Honchariw, managing director of The Go Game, a company with a mission to help employees learn and grow through wildly fun, high-tech scavenger hunts in their cities. She is right. Research over the last several years has brought the power of play to the forefront of learning theory. Office environments and professional etiquette suppress the playful, personal way that we tend to build relationships outside of work. Infusing play into the workday, however, enhances our ability to learn about one another and ourselves, fostering the trust and collaboration that provide the basis for corporate thriving.

Companies can create opportunities for employees to explore and hone their abilities and relationships through shared laughter and recreation. These events should be incorporated wisely into work life. Rather than randomly schedule “fun” activities, “It’s important to do it when you feel there’s a need,” said Julie McDougal, senior human resources partner at IBM. Done right, creating space for play can be extremely effective: “That’s when innovation hits, that’s when conversations flow . . . and connections are made,” said Kevin Fraczek, manager of Intel’s corporate Great Place to Work program.


Relationships and, indeed, learning start with vulnerability. Without taking risks and sharing more deeply, you cannot achieve a greater level of connection and understanding. A relaxed, fun-centered environment facilitates such openness in a way that daily office life cannot. Take a cue from TeamBonding, a teambuilding company, whose Cirque de Team event provides participants an opportunity to enjoy themselves while challenging them to leap and swing outside of their comfort zone. Under the direction of professional performers, participants attempt to master a plethora of circus tricks from juggling to tightrope walking.

Activities like these tricks stretch your abilities, bringing you to a place of vulnerability and encouraging you to depend on others. “If you’re unfamiliar, you kind of need the help,” said TeamBonding COO David Goldstein. Don’t have the funds to hire circus performers to show you their stuff? Choose a skill to learn together from stand-up paddleboarding to orienteering.



Working as an effective team requires more than just learning to get along with John in the cube next door. Flexibility, coordination, and honesty: all are key. Activities that get people working together without the pressure of sales quotas or budgets help develop these skills. At F1 Boston, a kart racing facility, cross-departmental teams work together to run NASCAR racecars through full pit stops, mastering tactics that they can apply at the office to maximize productivity, morale, and teamwork. There’s a “lot of yelling, lot of screaming, lot of laughing,” said Glen Ransden, F1 Boston’s marketing director. “But there’s also a lot of learning,” he said. After the first round, teams evaluate their performance, identify personal strengths and weaknesses, and switch team members to positions where they will be most effective, practicing the analysis, strategy and flexibility crucial for productive collaboration. If you don’t happen to have a racecar on hand, you can still enjoy the collaborative benefits of some friendly competition. Get speedy in the kitchen instead for an office cook-off.



Work stalls, projects fall through the cracks, potential clients decide not to call back. The problem? Failed communication. Both workplace productivity and building relationships rely on effective exchange of ideas and thoughts. Casual, relationship-building conversations and persuasive communication skills alike blossom amid fun. During The Go Game’s scavenger hunts, for example, employees practice sensitive conversation and motivation while convincing a “Bawling Bride” to continue with her wedding. “Little do they realize at the time that this is sales training,” The Go Game’s Michelle Honchariw said. If you are short on time, these same principles can be put into practice in your office with some hilarious and stimulating improvisational theater games.



Old approaches cannot solve the new problems our rapidly changing world presents. We must arrive at fresh, creative answers quickly and effectively. In play, children constantly innovate, experiment, and craft imaginative solutions. From The Go Game’s haiku offs and compliment duels to navigating the uncharted waters of building seaworthy boats in less than three hours, opportunities abound within play to strengthen your innovation skills by responding rapidly to new situations and engaging in environments where they can converse freely. Don’t want to hire professionals? Create your own scavenger hunt full of hilarious challenges that require fast, out-of-the-box thinking.


Empathy leads to compassionate action, enables effective compromise and fosters deeper relationships. Your ability to extend empathy expands when you view others as fellow human beings with kids and bucket lists, struggles and sorrows, and perhaps even dirty dishes in the kitchen sink. Unfortunately, this perspective is often lost in the corporate environment as coworkers are seen merely as accountants, marketing managers or CEOs. By “having fun and laughing together” at a Go Game team building event outside the office, Heather White and her team were exposed to a new side of each other, said White, operations support manager at Clorox. They began to see each other as friends rather than coworkers, she explained.

At Intel, employees get to know each other through a variety of activities: going out to the movies, cheering on their favorite sports team or training for annual company races together, said Intel’s Kevin Fraczek. Such bonding times cannot be neglected even when working remotely. The global IBM takes time to relax and get to know each other during video conferences, spending quality time face to face even when separated by miles and perhaps cultures, said IBM’s Julie McDougal. Whether via webcam or in person, take some time to learn who people are, what makes them tick, what you have in common, and what differences you admire.

1 Day at a Time

Fay Johnson

As we begin another year, many of us will be setting resolutions. I believe strongly in setting goals, but in addition to the things I hope to accomplish in 2015, I also desire to live each day in a way that builds a better tomorrow for all.

If you haven't thought about what you want to do in 2015, consider filling out this simple one-page prompt from Art Bar Blog. (Free Printable).

Because the choices we make daily have a huge and lasting impact on our lives and the lives of those around us, I believe it's important to think about our daily goals as well.

I love lists and checking boxes, so I decided to create a 'daily card' that I can use as a reminder and monitor of the behaviors I hope to do on a regular basis. It serves as a reminder to be mindful about what I consume (drinking enough water, eating vegetables, limiting my meat consumption), what I choose to purchase (Fair Trade, organic, local), how I care for my well being (exercise, meditation, spiritual care, learning) and how I engage with the world around me (recycling, reading news, connecting with people).

You may have other things that are important for your daily routine – spending time with your children or partner, reading a good book, checking in with elderly loved ones, flossing, etc. Think about the type of days you want to have and you'll be off to building a great year (and good habits).

You can download my version for free here.

Happy New Year!


7 Tips on Staying Healthy Over the Holidays

Fay Johnson

The holidays are a time of joy for some, stress for others, and lots of food for most. But with a little planning and keeping moderation in mind, the holiday season can be a healthy season too. Here are 7 tips for managing your wellness and weight over the holidays, from Dietician Allison Evanson:

1: Moderation, moderation, moderation – From the Thanksgiving table to office parties, unhealthy foods are likely to surround you this holiday season.  When you decide to indulge, keep the portion small and really enjoy it – remember, one cookie will not add the pounds, but the same can’t be said for frequent treats throughout the holiday season.

2: Save Splurges for the Best – Avoid eating foods that don’t make the grade – if something indulgent isn’t great, put it down and save those calories for something that you can really savor.

3: Be Alcohol Aware – Not only does alcohol contain calories, but the more you drink the less likely you are to make good eating decisions.  Try alternating alcoholic and non-alcoholic sugar-free beverages (water, unsweetened tea, etc).

4: Be Buffet Smart – Holiday buffets can be dangerous because of the number of high-fat and high-sugar items available.  Try to fill ½ of your plate with fruits and/or veggies, ¼ with lean protein, and the remaining ¼ with a starchy side.  Decide what you want before filling your plate, so you don’t end up with a scoop of everything!

5: Breakfast is Still the Most Important Part of the Day – It is ok to eat a little lighter during the day if you know you are going to have a big meal in the evening.  However, try not to skip eating altogether, which is likely to cause overeating later in the day.

6: Keep Goals Realistic – If you have been working to lose weight, realize that a good goal for the holidays may be to maintain your weight.

7: Keep Exercising – Exercise can help work off those special treats as well as keep stress at bay.  From walking with family to making time for your regular exercise routine, regular physical activity is good for mind and body.


Allison Evanson, MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian who works with patients to improve their lifestyle habits for disease prevention, weight loss, and health improvement. Allison helps patients find realistic and sustainable ways to incorporate healthy eating into everyday life. Have questions? Feel free to reach out to her here.

Expectations and Finding Happiness in the Holidays

Fay Johnson

By Fay Johnson | Editor-in-Chief

For the majority of my life, Ive struggled with realistic expectations. On more than one occasion, I’ve been called a hopeless romantic and a dreamer. While these can be beneficial traits, they also have serious down-sides. My struggle to set and manage expectations usually comes to a head around the holidays.

When I was a child, I would pour over Victoria Magazine (what a gem that thing was!) looking at all the vintage dresses – dreaming of walking down the street in full length velvet, with a fur muff to keep my hands warm, as I went caroling in the snow. Mind you, I was born in South Africa where we celebrate Christmas in 85 degree weather, usually poolside. My second home, California, didn't offer anything closer to a white Christmas. But it didn't matter – I was an optimistic old-soul of a child, nostalgic for a world that didn't exist. I wanted to climb into the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving Painting and be the family seen through the window in the closing scene of It's a Wonderful Life.

The holidays were a time when I wanted the world to be picture perfect – warm, cozy and safe.

If youre like me, and happen to live in the real world, its easy to see how having these types of expectations can lead to disappointment. I was often in tears by the end of Christmas day, because no matter how lovely the day had been, it lacked the magic of an old-world movie. Oh, how this broke my mother's heart. (It was a bit much to expect her to produce snow-clad roofs, prince charming, and a horse-drawn sleigh). Years of wonderful holidays remained in the shadow of what could have been, instead of appreciated for what they were.

As science continues to make advances (and I continue to mature), a lot has been learned about what affects happiness. A study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, investigated the relationship between happiness and reward, and the neural processes that lead to feelings that are central to our conscious experience, such as happiness.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Robb Rutledge (UCL Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging and the new Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing), said: “We expected to see that recent rewards would affect moment-to-moment happiness but were surprised to find just how important expectations are in determining happiness. In real-world situations, the rewards associated with life decisions such as starting a new job or getting married are often not realized for a long time, and our results suggest expectations related to these decisions, good and bad, have a big effect on happiness."

“Life is full of expectations - it would be difficult to make good decisions without knowing, for example, which restaurant you like better. It is often said that you will be happier if your expectations are lower. We find that there is some truth to this: lower expectations make it more likely that an outcome will exceed those expectations and have a positive impact on happiness. However, expectations also affect happiness even before we learn the outcome of a decision. If you have plans to meet a friend at your favorite restaurant, those positive expectations may increase your happiness as soon as you make the plan."

The neuroscience of decision making would not have likely changed the dreamy idealism of my youth, but as I consider it now, it reminds me that we have a fair amount of power over how we feel. I can choose to take a realistic view of the holidays, make peace with the fact that there won't be snow or a picture-perfect family, and then set my expectations based on all the good things in my life. I am allowing myself the happiness that comes with being expectant about seeing family and friends. My expectation is that we will share a meal, be present with one another, and enjoy the beauty that is human interaction. Regardless of how Non-Rockwell it ends up being.

Scribbled on my kitchen chalkboard wall is the saying: Gratitude Makes What You Have Enough. This year, I’m taking my own advice, setting my expectations and choosing gratitude amidst the holiday hubbub.

Doctor's Orders: Mindful Eating at the Thanksgiving Table

Fay Johnson

By Dr. Larry Burchett |

I love Thanksgiving.  Dipping turkey with stuffing into cranberry sauce is one of my favorites.  I must have inherited my father’s affinity for pumpkin pie, too.  Legend has it his grandmother made 1 pie for his 4 siblings, and 1 pie for just him.  Few moments are as blissful as the post Thanksgiving lunch slumber/coma on the couch where tryptophan intoxication enables me to nostalgically construct my Christmas wish list (I’m in my 30s), with some irrelevant football game in the background.

Then there’s the scale on Monday afterwards—talk about a walk of shame, from couch coma to that electronic reality checker.  When I was younger (20s and below), I didn't gain much weight despite competing in the annual family Overeaters Anonymous competition at our holiday table.  But once I passed 30 and the ol’ metabolism changed, I could literally see the turkey migrate from my stomach to setup a semi-permanent residence on my belly.

Interestingly, studies have shown that many people aren’t aware that they’ve eaten too much until one thing—they have to loosen their pants. Literally. Until we have eaten so much that we no longer fit in our regular clothing. 

When it comes to holiday meals, I think we have simple wants:

  • To enjoy food
  • To enjoy family time, people
  • To be comatose on the couch so we don’t have to watch the Dallas Cowboys (does anybody still play Romo in Fantasy Football???)

I think it would be safe to assume that there are simple things we don’t want:

  • To gain weight over the holidays
  • To feel hungry or unsatisfied
  • To feel guilty about enjoying a nice meal

Did I miss anything?  Maybe you have other wants. Sharing stories with loved ones. Enjoying a day away from your desk to reconnect with friends. Taking part in the ritual of flag football. It would be relevant to consider what would define an enjoyable Thanksgiving.  Can we have it all?  Is there a way we can both enjoy food, the time AND not gain weight, not feel hungry or guilty about it?  I think the answer is yes, there are several things you can do to limit the weight gain without losing the things we really want, like enjoying food. 



Think about that for a minute.  If you are eating for 40 minutes and you stop at minute 40 because you are full (and are in your fat pants struggling to breath because you housed more than your share of the dark meat), then the last 20 minutes you’ve been eating, has been past when your stomach was full.  In other words, you overate for 20 minutes!


So what can you do to counter this?  Eat more slowly.  What if you spread out that first 20 minutes of food—over 40 minutes or an hour?  You can savor eat bite of bird instead of inhaling it.  Focus on socializing and conversation, enjoying the moment with people.  Space out bites by drinking water.  Pace yourself by eating more slowly than the slowest person at the table. Try asking questions of your fellow diners. Who has a great story that will engage the entire table?

Because eating more slowly does 2 things: 1) Enables you to feel fuller and therefore eat less overall and 2) Enables you to more efficiently digest your food, and store a little less as fat.  How would you do that?  How would you suggest your family do that, or even—how would you model the behavior of eating more slowly for them?

What about our criteria for what we want from our meal?  Have we compromised?  By eating more slowly, can we still enjoy food and people?  Yes, arguable you can get MORE enjoyment from savoring food and eating more slowly.  Can we do it in a way where we are not hungry and don’t feel guilty about what we are eating?  Somehow I don’t think we are going hungry at Thanksgiving, and in terms of the guilt—eating more slowly should actually make you feel BETTER and LESS guilty.  If anything, this enhances several aspects of what most of us want to get out of the gathering.  Yes, you are a genius.  Now, is The Wizard of Oz still the traditional Thanksgiving movie?



In the book The Volumetrics Eating Plan by PhD Barbara Rolls, she discussed how you can make a ¼ hamburger look like the same amount (visual volume) as a ½ hamburger—by adding fixings to bulk it up—yet have significantly less calories.  Here’s the crazy thing—neither our eyes nor our stomach’s can tell the difference, and we feel just as full, even though we’ve consumed less calories.

Suppose just for a second, that’s true.  How can you use that info—that volume not calories fills us up—to enjoy Thanksgiving eating and not gain/minimize weight gain?  One way would be to fill your plate with more calorie light (not calorie dense) foods that take up space but don’t have a lot of calories.  1 cup of mixed greens for a salad is 20 calories, whereas 1 cup of brown rice is 216 calories, over 10 times that of the greens.  I’m not suggestion you don’t eat the good stuff, but I am saying that adding some calorie light food to fill your plate next to and around the good stuff might help you actually overeat less. 

Regardless of how you stack your plate this Thanksgiving, I encourage you to be mindful about what you're enjoying. Pay attention to how your body is actually feeling, so your pants don't have to tell you.


Dr. Larry is residency trained and board certified in Family Medicine. He currently practices as an emergency physician, hospitalist and in the ICU. He is also the author of the forthcoming book The Gentleman’s Diet. You can learn more about Dr. Larry's take on healthy eating and exercise at www.doctorlarry.com.

Interview with GoldieBlox Founder

Fay Johnson

When Debbie Sterling was a child, her parents encouraged her to be an actor. Yet, when it came time to apply to college, her high school math teacher suggested Debbie consider engineering. “I thought an engineer was train driver,” she explained, but when she arrived at college she gave Engineering 101 a try. She loved it. Eleven years later, after graduating as one of the few female engineering majors in her class at Stanford, Debbie launched a toy company with the mission to get and keep young girls interested in engineering.

Debbie designed GoldieBlox, a toy/game/book combination that focuses on the character of Goldie, a sprightly, overalls-wearing girl with a tool belt and mismatched socks, who wants to be an engineer. Geared for 5-9-year-olds, the toy teaches spatial recognition skills via the toys and a companion storybook and game board.

Our Editor-in-Chief, Fay Johnson, had a chance to speak with Debbie at her office in Oakland about following her passion, why the world needs more female engineers, and how you can help.

Swap Your Way to a Dream Vacation

Fay Johnson

By Paula Derrow

As I mentioned in my last post, there are many benefits to exchange. I’m writing this from Rome, where I’m staying for free in a friend’s lovely, two-bedroom apartment in the impossibly atmospheric neighborhood of Trastevere. Out my window, colorful clothing dries from lines over narrow streets and the 14th and 15th century buildings glow yellow in the incomparable Italian light. How did I get here? Well, I invited this Roman friend to camp out at my place in New York City, for an equal length of time, when I went off on my honeymoon. (To underscore the beauty of this agreement, the average cost of a mid-level hotel room near Rome’s historic center hovers around $200 and hotels in New York City go for much more.

But you don’t need a friend with well-located digs to stay for free in an exotic locale. I love the site Homeforexchange.com. Over the past decade, I have used the site to swap for an apartment in Rio during Carnival and a beach house near Sao Paolo (yes, all for my relatively modest 650 square foot apartment in NYC) and a condo in the trendy Neve Tzedek neighborhood of Tel Aviv, complete with a roof deck and view of the ocean. And this year, my husband and I are looking forward to spending a few weeks in a restored 17th century farmhouse in the Loire Valley in May, and in a Greek villa on the island of Syros. (With an infinity pool!)

People often ask me if I’m nervous about doing these swaps; if I worry about someone damaging my things. I tend to be a trusting sort, but even if I wasn’t, the fact that both parties are sharing each other’s homes lends a certain guaranteed respectfulness to the deal. That, and I do my homework. I email extensively with my potential swappers, I Google them, and usually, we Skype and talk by phone, too. By the end of the process, we’ve often become friends.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t learned a few things in the process. First and foremost, I stick with older swappers, and by that, I mean people who are well out of their 20s and likely not inclined to be big partiers. I also lock away anything I’m worried about (important papers; jewelry; etc.). Other than that, I’ve typed up a list of instructions (“Don’t run the air conditioner and a blow dryer at the same time, or the fuse will blow!”); jotted down lists of my favorite neighborhood markets, restaurants and attractions; and collected some current guidebooks for my guests. In return, I get the benefit of their insider tips—and get a distinctly un-touristy view of wherever I happen to be.

There are home-swapping sites galore these days (you can read about a few of them here; I also list my place on sabbaticalhomes.com, a swap site for writers, artists and academics looking for free, longer-term stays. Our editor, Fay, often rents her home in Oakland via the site Airbnb.com – she's had great success too, and earned money to support the growth of this magazine.

Of course, there are many more opportunities to share or swap your way to an experience you couldn’t otherwise afford. From sites like openshed.com, which offers opportunities to rent or borrow everything from hedge clippers to kayaks, to sites like dogvacay.com, which lets pet lovers lodge Fido in a loving private home, the sharing economy is taking the country by storm.

Clearly, it’s time to start thinking beyond dollars and cents and getting what you want through traditional businesses. What have you got to offer?

Bartering: Treat Yourself with an Exchange

Fay Johnson

By Paula Derrow

Think you can’t afford a professional organizer? Or a nutritionist? Or a haircut from a high-end salon? I thought the same thing, especially when I was laid off from my job and had to transition to a freelance. Out went the little luxuries – In went the worrying. But a year-and-a-half into my new budget-conscious life, I’ve found that I can avail myself of some of those extras without blowing a hole in my bank account. One way I’ve managed to do that is to jump into the new (or rather, not-so-new) bartering economy, the practice of trading goods and services without exchanging money, and one that has existed for as long as two people each have something the other wants. According to the International Reciprocal Trade Association, there was $8.5 million of this kind of trading done in 2013 alone.

Lest you’re imagining housewives trading sugar for flour, or farmers trading fertilizer for help with the harvest, you might be surprised to know that there are online organizations, like bartercard.com  that encourage bartering among businesses. One of the benefits is that for small organizations, it's a great way to get rid of excess stock in exchange for a product or service they need.

I’ve found that bartering allows me to treat myself without guilt. It's also a great way to help other fledgling entrepreneurs build their client list, gain experience, and get something they need for their business. Here is one example – I live in a one-bedroom apartment in New York City, where closet space is at a premium. When my professional organizer friend, Lisa Zaslow, founder of Gotham Organizers, mentioned that she needed an editor’s eye to look over a proposal she was working on, I suggested that we barter: “You help me find some extra space in my walk-in closet; I’ll edit your proposal.” According to Home Advisors, the average organizing project costs upward of $500. Lisa came to my apartment and spent a few hours helping me figure out what to throw out, where to put the stuff I wanted to keep, and even brought her nifty label maker to mark my shelves (“batteries”; “light bulbs”; “home goods”) so I could remember what went where. In return, I spent a few hours going over her proposal with my red pen. We both got what we wanted, and felt a little more bonded to boot.

I’ve also done a barter with my sister-in-law, a yoga instructor, who came to my apartment and designed a custom yoga workout for me; in return, I helped her write up some marketing copy to publicize a new class she was teaching in a local gym. Given that she was a relatively new instructor, she was also glad to have another name on her client list.

I was able to find individuals to exchange services with without reaching beyond my immediate circle of friends and acquaintances. If you're unsure what types of services your friends may be positioned to offer, you can always utilize social media or sites like swapright.com. Just keep in mind that when you’re doing a friendly barter, it’s smart to be clear about expectations. This post by Forbes magazine writer Demetra Kouremetes offers some good tips on how to make sure a barter doesn’t go sour. 

I personally haven’t completely given up on the cash economy, after all, I need to pay my mortgage and buy groceries, but there is a wealth of experiences and opportunities that can be gained from a littler personal life bartering.


photo by Sarah Gerber


6 Tips To Reduce Plastic Waste

Fay Johnson


Summer is often marked by the scents of sunscreen, warm earth, wildflowers, salty seaside air,... and plastic. Walk into any convenience store, drugstore, or coastal gas station and you will be greeted by stacks of freshly-minted water wings, flip flops, rows of overpriced bottled water, and beach toys. A garish panoply of neon colors and the acrid aroma of cheap wares.

As a community committed to building a better tomorrow, we should consider two things: why beaches exist and where those plastic conveniences end up. The answer is one and the same: the ocean. Of course, not everything that we pile into our large beach totes remains on the shore, but the increase in disposable plastic can harm us and our environment. In addition to the health concerns that arise for humans and wildlife from exposure to plastics, this waste is a financial burden for states and countries. [California, for instance, spends $52 million annually to clear trash away from its beaches alone.]

There are over 165 million tons of plastic in the world's oceans, with eight million pieces of plastic entering the ocean every day.  Seem abstract? Animals from at least 267 different species have died due to eating or getting tangled up in oceanic plastic waste – that's an embarrassing fact.

We love the outdoors and are grateful for all the affordable fun it provides us. So, as part of our commitment to making sure the earth wins, here are six things you can do this summer to reduce your plastic waste.

1. Use a reusable water bottle

If you're looking for reasons to switch to a reusable water bottle, here are a few: Bottled water is not any healthier or cleaner than tap water – so why spend the extra money and time waiting in line?

The most commonly used plastic in the production of plastic bottles is petroleum-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Manufacturing these bottles requires an estimated 47 million gallons of oil each year. In fact, in the United States alone, 1.5 million barrels of oil are used annually in the production of plastic bottles. That's enough to fuel 100,000 cars for one year!

The global distribution of bottled water creates yet another environmental hazard. The trucks, airplanes, and boats on which the water travels consume even more fossil fuels, while simultaneously causing air pollution and global warming. “The Earth Policy Institute estimates that the energy used to pump, process, transport and refrigerate bottled water is over 50 million barrels of oil annually”. Around our office, we use these tumblers.

2. Bring your own bag when you shop

For those committed to reducing waste, sometimes the hardest part can be remembering to bring the bags along. I have a compact bagu that I keep in my purse at all times – it comes in handy.  For large shopping needs, I keep a few totes in my car.  If you need a cute tote for heavier items, grab one of ours! It's a great way to reduce unnecessary waste.

3. Buy food with limited or no packaging

When you can, buy produce at the farmers market, roadside stalls or stores that provde packaging-free items. It's also a good way to reinforce healthier eating.

4. Pack a picnic in reusable containers

There are countless numbers of reusable lunch containers available today – buy a few that work well for your needs and bring them along to the beach or pool.  Getting in the habit of packing your own snacks will not only save you money, it will also help with eating healthy. We reviewed some of our favorites in Issue no. 4.

5. Invest in quality beach toys

As the carefree days roll on, plastic beach toys often break under the pressure of enthusiastic castle building. Instead of grabbing another bucket and shovel from the local gas station, think about investing in tools that will last longer. Need some ideas? We're a big fan of the San Francisco-based company Green Toys that makes items out of recycled milk bottles. Consider their Sand Set for your summer fun this year (and next!). 

6. Buy better footwear that won't dissolve before the weather turns

When the weather finally warms, sandals take the stage and demand perfectly pedicured toes. The impact of fast fashion can be even worse when it comes to flimsy footwear. Instead of grabbing a pair of cheap flops, consider investing in a well constructed pair that will last for years to come and save some of our ocean friends in the process.


Oakland: In Our Neighborhood

Fay Johnson

In September 2013 we moved into a new office in Jack London Square, part of downtown Oakland. It's a lively industrial area set right on the water. We are lucky to have a waterfront promenade, good restaurants, kayak rental, Jack London's historical cabin, and the ferry right outside our door. Here are a few photos taken by Jerome Love, one of our talented contributors.

Jack London's cabin

Jack London's cabin

Warehouses are open, selling fresh produce each morning.

Warehouses are open, selling fresh produce each morning.

The trucks come and go, and bright colors line the street.

The trucks come and go, and bright colors line the street.

Soulful Summer: Better Flip Flops

Fay Johnson

Photo courtesy of Indosole. Article by Seth Strickland

By Seth Strickland

The benefits of buying better quality sandals are many, and the cost is small. To aid this choice, the deliberateLIFE staff has selected three flip-flops which are fairly and greenly made, won't break the bank, and will look good to boot!

Types of Soles: There are essentially two green schools of thought on the material used to make the soles of sandals: natural rubber, harvested sustainably, or recycled rubber (typically from car tires). The advantage of the first process is that not only is it natural, but it is habituating a method of manufacture for future generations of shoe manufacturers. Its disadvantage is that it is adding more rubber (albeit biodegradable) to an already rubber-filled world. The advantage, on the other hand, of the latter, is that the material already exists in the form necessary – the soles must be cut, but not manufactured from scratch. The disadvantage of this is that the soles are usually petroleum-based.

Quality: When you're at the store or reviewing products online, look for details that indicate that the shoe is made with care and will survive the adventures of summer sun. Are they stitched or glued? Handmade? Are there positive reviews of the product? Quality is one way to reduce the amount of waste created.

Here are three brands that you might want to consider this summer:


The first brand we recommend is Indosole, which falls in the latter category. The company is based in San Fransisco but manufactures in Bali. The company promises that its workers work in excellent manufacturing situations. Indosole's flip-flops are made from recycled motorcycle tires by hand, so the manufacturing process itself is largely fuel-free, and on top of all this, the shoes have no leather uppers, so they're vegan as well. This makes a good alternative to a brand like Tevas and is likely to last for at least five years if not longer. For anyone who longs for the days of Simple Shoes again, these are the sandals for you.


For sandals firmly in the harvested natural rubber camp, look no further than Guru. Their striking aesthetic has roots in ancient Indian sandal designs, but the company is brand-new. They're stylish and simple, fairly inexpensive, and the company is just out of a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign. By all accounts, these flip-flops are comfortable and functional while helping the planet.


Our final entry in the flip-flop lineup is a much more conventional design. Feelgoodz flip-flops look exactly like other flip-flops, but feel much softer. They come from intentionally fair and empowering materials-sourcing, fair manufacturing, and naturally and sustainably acquired rubber.

This summer consider buying sustainable and long-lasting flip-flops comfortable for the foot and the soul and support businesses doing good.

Two-Wheeling to Work

Seth Strickland


By Seth Strickland

Biking to work is fun. It's also great for all your muscles (including your heart!), it'll drive you to make better diet choices, and it'll give you a good chance to take a break from the ol' automobile. 

Citi bike has grown steadily more popular, as well as various bike sharing  programs, so it's easier than ever worldwide to get your hands on a bike without having to actually buy one. But, chances are, there's a yard sale down the street, a recently-unexplored garage, or Craigslist, whereat a lonely bicycle is waiting, like a puppy, for you and only you. 

Where to begin riding? Think about your work commute. Is it feasible for you to bike to work? Look for perhaps previously undiscovered bike paths in your community - chances are, if you live in a bicycle-friendly community or an urban environment, there are bike trails all around you. Get in contact with your local bike commission for a bicycling map.

 I'm not advocating, though, that you pick up a bike tomorrow and set off on your 18-mile commute. Unless you do this already, I'm telling you that you're probably not going to make it. Plus, if you do make it, you might, through your tears, wish that you hadn't ever laid eyes on a bicycle nor been born or something foolish like that. But, if you have a commute of three miles or less (or more if you want to!), think about taking a day or two next week and biking to work. See how it feels. 

Think also about the quick run to the store. That store, unless you are suburb-bound, is probably not far away. A backpack and a bike can make that secret exercise. 

Why to begin riding?  Your muscles are something like 50 times more efficient, on average, per calorie, than your car. And, since every gallon of gas you burn releases a pound of carbon dioxide, your pedaling is more efficient and releases next to no carbon dioxide. Plus, there are all those healthy reasons I told you about before. You'll do your body and your surroundings a lot of good.

This week, dust off the old Schwinn, buy a used road bike from your Local Bike Shop (LBS), or teach your kid to ride. This week, pedal deliberately. And wear a helmet.

Spring Update: We're on Android

Fay Johnson

Issue no. 5 Promo.jpg

It's hard to believe that the first quarter of 2014 is over. Yet, spring is definitely in the air as April showers seem to have come early here in Oakland.

On Sunday we released the beta version of our Android app – If you have become a faithful reader of our blog and have been waiting to be able to access the magazine on your Android tablet – the wait is over! Download our free app from the Google Play Store and send us your ideas and feedback. We'd love to hear from you. 

Sunday also found us mentioned in a San Francisco Chronicle article about the tech scene in Oakland. Although most of our team lives in other cities (and countries), Oakland has been a great place to start launch this business. If you live in the Bay Area, do consider joining us for dinner on a Wednesday night.

Along with the release of our Android app, Issue no. 5, is out on April 1st.  In this issue we explore some of the spaces which we may overlook in our urban landscape and consider ways to conserve water and energy while contributing to more efficient cities.

Although it can be deeply rewarding to escape the city from time to time, much of the world’s population lives in dense urban environments and will continue to do so. Therefore, it is wise to consider how we choose to live within these environments.

In recent months, my team and I have been navigating the joys of independent publishing and all the ebbs and flows that accompany a new venture. For our paucity in publishing, I apologize. We are so grateful that you have remained part of our collective efforts to build a better tomorrow and look forward to all we will learn and do together in 2014.

Interested in learning more about why we do what we do? Check out this video or this post on why choices matter. As we journey through 2014, I invite you to contact us so that we may collaborate to find ways to live well and do good.

Get in touch with your ideas. We’d love to hear from you.

Live Deliberately,


My Year of Non-Compulsive Shopping

Fay Johnson


By Paula Derrow

For more than two decades, I worked at fashion magazines, smack in the middle of New York City, where buying a new shirt or a pair of cute shoes was as easy as strolling past a shop window, running in, and strutting out with yet another bag. Not that I’m swimming in designer labels, but I just didn’t give shopping much serious thought. If I wanted something, and it wasn’t too, too pricy, I bought it. In that respect, I’m quite unlike my frugal parents. I grew up not lacking for anything, but my father is a champion coupon clipper, and I’m certain my mother has never spent more than $50 for a bag or a pair of shoes.

Partly, I blamed my profession for my spending habit. I worked with all women at all those glossy magazines, women who (nicely) noticed what I was wearing, and I didn’t want to get caught wearing the same thing more than once a week (if that).

As the years passed, I found that I was buying more and more, yet, like most women, wearing the same seven or eight favorites over and over. Sometimes, I’d even discover random shirts buried deep in a drawer with the tags still on, mostly cheap things I’d picked up without thinking about it. But even a shirt that costs $10 is no bargain if it stays tucked in the drawer.

Shopping Diptych.jpg

Then, about a year-and-a-half ago, I lost my job in a company-wide layoff, and had to make some big changes in my spending, fast. I made a vow: No new clothes for a year. Or shoes. Or bags. Or jewelry. After all, I no longer had colleagues to impress. Besides, I had a closet stuffed with enough for two or three wardrobes; it was time to use what I already owned.

That’s a smart move for anyone’s budget, and as it turns out, for the environment. As Leo Rosario reported in “Fashion Forward,” in Deliberate Life’s second issue, a single textile mill in China (a country that accounts for up to 54% of the world’s clothing production), can use up to 200 tons of water for each ton of fabric it dyes, to the tune of millions of tons of fabric a year. I was definitely up for conserving water, never mind cash.

At first, it was tough. Whenever I’d pass a colorful window display, I found myself slowing down. “Ooh, love that coral bag! That sweater looks so soft!” my brain would think, and I’d lean in closer, scanning to see if there were any sales going on. Then, my super ego would kick in: “Keep going!” I’d warn myself sternly. You have plenty of bags. And sweaters.” And I’d move along, my heart beating a bit faster at a danger averted. Sure, I could go in for a browse without buying, but I told myself I wouldn’t even enter stores. Why tempt myself?

It turns out, some old habits don’t die so hard. Within a month or so, I wasn’t stopping to press my nose against store windows; I wasn’t even turning my head as I strode on by. And, to my surprise, instead of feeling deprived, I felt a tiny bit…relieved. There was no more keeping up with trends, no more wasting time deliberating over whether I could afford something.

Then came a major challenge: a long-planned trip to Rome that I’d been promising my 13-year-old nephew for years, in honor of his bar mitzvah. Despite my resolve, I wasn’t sure that I could resist the sumptuous leather bags, the Italian cashmere, the soft leather boots….


I’d like to say that I kept my vow on that ten-day trip. But the truth is, I broke down and bought a few things. A bag. One sweater. I felt guilty—but not tremendously so. Because even though I was buying, I was doing it in moderation, thoughtfully. I passed up many sweaters before I finally plucked up one that I adored. And when I returned home, I paid off my VISA bill and resumed my un-buying spree. It was nice to have a few new things in my closet, and I wore them with pleasure; there was no way I was going to forget I owned these pieces.

As for the rest of my year-without-buying, it went off without a hitch. I actually learned to enjoy putting old pieces together in new ways (it’s amazing how a cool scarf can make an outfit look fresh again). I was free, for the moment, from the shopping bug, the urge to acquire, speeding past store windows on the way to more important things.

And when it was over, I didn’t rush out on a buying binge. Instead, when I do take out my credit card, I make sure it’s for something I need, something I’ll love, something I’ll wear like crazy. I can feel good about that kind of buying, even on a budget.

Images by Michelle Park

10 Tips for the International Traveler

Fay Johnson


Our Editor-in-Chief has done quite a bit of globe trotting in her day, so we asked her to share some of her go-to advice on what to consider when heading out on an international, cross-culture adventure. Here at 10 things to keep in mind before you head to the airport.

1) Pack Light- Washing is easy to do in most places, and if you’re in a country that doesn’t have laundry service where you are staying, it’s probably the kind of place where they don’t care if you wear the same thing twice. But remember flip-flops. If there is a monsoon or an earthquake you’ll want to be able to get moving quickly (or there just might be something nasty in the shower).

2) Bring A Refillable Water Bottle: But don’t have any liquid in it until you get through check-in. For long international trips it’s easier to fill up and keep with you, and it reduces the amount of trash you will produce while on the road.

3) All-In-One Adapters: Buy at least two; they solves the ‘Oh, I didn’t plan to get diverted to Erbil International and my BB is dead’ problem.

4) Electronic Overload: It’s 2014. Unless you’re shooting for National Geographic- your phone can probably serve as your GPS, computer, sound system and camera. Half the knots in my back could be attributed to carrying ½ the mac store and canon’s latest and greatest in my carry on- they make multifunctional gadgets so you don’t actually need to bring it all.

5) Back It Up: Before you hit the road, make sure you sync your computer and your phone to a device you leave at home. Traveling with your portable hard drive in the same bag as your laptop just means, when it’s stolen, the thief now has two copies of your entire life. Also- Bring a thumb drive. As shocking as it may seem, wifi does not actually form a universal umbrella and when you can’t transfer files via e-mail- thumb drive it.


6) Multi-Functional Clothing: I always travel with a good-sized wrap/scarf. This serves as a blanket on cheap airlines and makes a good pillow when you need to nap on not-so-clean surfaces. Also, a good wrap will solve many culturally divergent fashion needs- my favorite has been worn as a beach sarong and as a hijab. Gentlemen- I recommend taking a light sweater and a collared shirt with you regardless of where you are traveling. In some cultures it is disrespectful to be in public without a collar.

7) Only Pack One Book: They are heavy and if you really fly through that page turner you haven’t picked up in two years- you can buy or trade for a new one on the road. You plan on catching up on your entire summer reading list on the 32-hour flight from here to there- but you won’t. You’ll more likely end up a) working b) getting stuck next to a talker c) sleeping/pretending to sleep or d) watch trash movies and enjoy every minute of it.

8) Long Flights: If you’re going to be on a plane for more then 24 hours, I suggest having the following in your carry on: ear plugs, eye mask, chapstick, NyQuil, lotion (a mini one), gum, and if you’ve got bad circulation- good socks.

9) Be Organized: If you can’t open your bag and remove whatever TSA wants from you in under a minute- you have too much stuff in your bag. In the same vein, don’t be one of those people who slows down the security check through. Think of it as a form of martial arts and get good at it. It shouldn’t be hard to remove your laptop, a ziplock bag and your shoes.

10) Breathe: They say it’s about the journey- so enjoy it!

Valentine's Day Ideas for Dudes

Seth Strickland

By Seth Strickland

This Valentine's Day is a great time to step it up, deliberate dudes. It's clear that the cascade of hearts and pink champagne and chocolates is the face of this holiday, but it's easy to let it be all of the holiday. Too many guys buy a big heart box and hand it in like some sort of half-forgotten homework. This Valentine's Day, put a little more deliberation into your celebration. You're seeking to live deliberately, so here's a chance to show it. A few ideas for those in relationships:


If you're in a new relationship, or not yet at the place where you feel comfortable uttering the word 'relationship' out loud, here are a few ideas based around getting to know each other:

  • Play your favorite record for her & have her play hers for you. Challenge each other to see who can find the sappiest song. It's a fun activity that can help you get to know each other, set the mood, and potentially help you find "your song."

  • Take her to your favorite local BYOB restaurant and have her bring her favorite wine.

  • Go on an adventure. Ask her what her favorite sort of shop or activity is, and find a nearby unexplored spot & get to know it.


If you've been in a relationship for a little while (or a long, long while), take this year to refresh a memory. Think back to one of your first great dates or memories, and build your activity on that. Even a dud the first time around can brighten with a second visit. A few suggestions:

  • See if any of your favorite bands are playing in your area or check out the lineup at your favorite venue to find something new.

  • If you are musically inclined, learn your partner's favorite song & sing/play it for them – everyone loves a little creative effort even if the end result isn't perfect. Too cheesy? Check out a comedy show for some good laughs.

  • Revisit a restaurant dear to both of you but which you haven't visited in a while. Alternatively, hit up a farmers' market & cook an old favorite. 

  • Go on an adventure. No reason not to. Make a new tradition; try something for the first time.

For ye single dudes, celebrate the love of friendship. Most of the dearest people in the world are simply your close friends. Take Valentine's Day to have some killer bro time. As Michelle wrote, love is selfless. Don't take Valentine's as an excuse to go on a self-pity bender – give something to someone else. Give time, give effort, give words of encouragement. Invite a group of friends over for a movie or board games – or take all your single girl friends out for ice cream. Give the gift of a good example: it's vital to act in a way those young guys who look up to you can emulate.

So, in the face of gushing romcoms and be-hearted teddy bears the size of, well, bears, take this Valentine's Day to be a man. February 14th is more than a Friday this year; it's more than a girly chocolate holiday: it's an opportunity to give something meaningful to someone very close to you. Take that opportunity by the horns, and give deliberately. Give love.  

Spreading the Love: Valentine's Day

Michelle Park


By Michelle Park

As Valentine’s Day has been dubbed the national holiday of romance, it’s no surprise that February 14th can be a day filled with a lot of…emotion, and whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not, running on just emotions can get really stressful, really fast.

What’s more, the presence of emotion often gets confused with the presence of love and discerning the difference between the two can be quite important for both singles and committed relationships. The cure for this confusion is simple: love acts, and it acts selflessly. It compels the human heart to look outside itself, to deliberately overflow—and not just for one day, but all year-round.

So whether you have a special Valentine or not, everyone has access to the presence of love. We just need to reclaim it. And where do you start? Maybe it’s a word of encouragement to the waitress who’s spending V-Day in an apron, or finally taking some time to call your parents. Maybe it’s cooking dinner and buying gifts for a single mom you know, or baking cookies for a friend who’s hurting from a bad break-up. Or, if you’re up for it, maybe it’s all of the above.

And for those of us who are partaking in some good ol’ romance on V-Day, we can take up the challenge to be deliberate in honoring our loved ones. Put your phones away, serve each other extravagantly, hug deeply, and tell them why you’re proud to call them yours. Consider getting an impacting gift that isn’t just the hottest new product at Barney’s, like this unique jewelry from 31bits, which help women in Uganda rise above poverty. Through informed purchases, you can demonstrate love to both your special someone and to a complete stranger miles away.

Here’s some simple tools to make love a lot more deliberate on Valentine’s Day 2014:

  • Fresh farmer’s market flowers
  • A couple batches of home-made cookies, to box up and give to quality friends or that very special someone. (Recipe below)
  • Sketchbook to handwritten letters paired with a great scented candle
  • Good vibes music play-list (dance party may follow)
  • Bottle of red wine or lavender tea
  • Fair-trade dark chocolate

Need some more ideas? Here are a few ethical gift ideas our research team pulled together: 
Ethical gifts ideas for her || Gifts ideas for him

Maple Chocolate Chip Cookies from Sprouted Kitchen:

  • 1 stick/ 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup muscavado sugar
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp. maple extract
  • 3 T. maple flakes (optional)
  • 2/3 cup almond meal
  • heaping 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 2/3 cup white whole wheat flour
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips/chopped chocolate

Heat the oven to 350. Cream the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg, sea salt, vanilla and maple extracts and mix again to combine well. In another bowl, mix the almond meal, oats, white whole wheat flour, pinch of cinnamon and baking soda together. Add the dry to the wet mixture and stir until almost combined, being careful not to over mix. Add the chopped chocolate and give it one more stir to combine. Allow the mixture to chill for at least 20 minutes, or covered overnight. Place your cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet or silpat, leaving space between for them to spread. Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating pan halfway through, until the centers are barely set. They will appear underdone, this is good. Allow them to cool and enjoy. 

Photo Credit: Michelle Park.