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5 Gifts Moms Actually Want for Mother's Day

Posted on April 22, 2019 by Alex Wells | 0 Comments

Finding your mom a Mother's Day gift can be like driving across the country without a map, it's confusing and right when you think you're headed in the right direction, you end up right where you started...lost! We seem to think our mothers are these complicated machines when in fact, they like the simplest of things. To make your life easier I have compiled a list of 5 gifts moms actually want for Mother's Day.

Breakfast in Bed: The last thing that Mothers want to do on their day is wake up and make themselves breakfast, and sometimes getting the whole family out to brunch can be a hassle and crowded. But, if you're going to do this, do it right! You can never go wrong with a well-made mimosa to get her morning started. Getting the smaller bottles and leaving the cork for them to pop can make it feel special.

Books: You can never go wrong with a good book! Growing up I always saw and got to help my mom play host. She loved having people over and getting the house ready for parties, so I got her a book on southern hospitality. It doesn't always have to be a mystery novel or a popular series, but something that's special between the two of you like a photo book of memories.

Flowers: Flowers, flowers, and more can never go wrong with flowers! A single flower in her vase on her breakfast in bed tray, a bouquet of flowers on her nightstand when she wakes up, or if you’re afar sending them to her via delivery man. Whatever it may be, your mom getting her favorite flowers on Mother's Day can make her entire month brighter.

Candles: Sometimes candles can be a bit tricky because you might not have the same taste in scents, but don't let that stop you from trying. Candles are another great (and super affordable) gift you can give to your mom. Every time they burn it they will instantly think of you.

Tote Bag: It is totally ok to splurge on your mother every now and then, they definitely deserve it after raising us after all. My mom is constantly on the go and is in constant need of space in her bags. That's why the Limited Edition Uniform Tote bag is the perfect way to spoil your mom on Mother’s Day. It is perfect for her farmers market trips in the morning, to afternoon yoga, and is the perfect travel bag that easily acts as a carry-on. It's lightweight with sturdy straps so she knows, like her, it’s reliable in everyday circumstances.

Emma Rooney is a student at the University of Arkansas pursuing a degree in Hospitality. She discovered Sword and Plough when her eldest brother joined West Point Military Academy and fell in love with their company. She wanted to help by becoming a brand champion so she could spread the word and knowledge about the company and what they have to offer.


Posted in Fashion, lifestyle, shopping

5 Ethical and Sustainable Trends

Posted on April 07, 2019 by Jennifer Flickenger | 0 Comments

5 Ethical and Sustainable Trends

I spent a good portion of my 20’s in what I call “disposable clothes”. These were outfits bought solely for the purpose of going out for cocktails and dancing, purchased on a 20’s single lady budget, without worrying about if they were spilled on or forgotten in the back of a cab. They were cheap and trendy, not meant to last for more than a season. Honestly, I never gave a thought to who or where the clothes were made. I gave zero consideration to the products I was putting directly on to my skin or in my hair, and to be brutally honest, my meals were far from desirable, consisting mostly of take-out and junk.

By my 30’s I had a grown-up job and three kids in diapers. My clothes were no longer club-worthy but had to withstand the plethora of misfortunes that can happen to a mom between breakfast and arriving at the office. I pretty much wore plastic that could stand up to projectile baby fluids. Words like “organic”, “fair trade”, and “sustainability” were just catching on. When I think of the number of disposable diapers my kids contributed to the local landfill, I cringe with shame. Now I’m doing my best to make up for my disposable lifestyle by making changes at home and instilling ethical, sustainable and green living into my kids. God willing, they never leave any piece of clothing in the back of a cab after a night out, and they better only dress my future grandbabies in organic cotton.

What I’ve learned is that there are several sustainable options to meet every consumer who has the environment in mind, or for those like me trying to make up for past sins. You can focus your energy anywhere and make a significant impact. For me, I’ve started replacing my cosmetics with organic, natural products, after realizing the largest organ of my body was being doused with God-Only-Knows what. My cleaning products have been replaced by chemical free products (Thank you Better Life!) we stopped spraying chemicals on our lawn and to the neighbor who brags he has no weeds but his kids and dog can’t run around on their grass, I say I would rather have a dandelion pop up and know my kids aren’t absorbing some freaky engineered chemical through their feet.

Ethics and sustainability are everyone’s responsibility and you can take it on as fiercely as a passionate activist, or you can start with baby steps. Every bit of change counts and I have been surprised by the huge impact that occurs even in casual conversations with like-minded friends.

Following are 5 Ethical and Sustainable trends that can have a huge impact but can be easily implemented into any lifestyle.

1. Sustainable Fashion

The exact opposite of disposable clothes. Sustainable fashion items you buy that are meant to last, make a minimal imprint on the environment during the manufacturing process and are made ethically. Clothing companies have come under the microscope for unfair child labor practices, unsafe sweatshop conditions, and for damaging local ecosystems due to dyes and other by-products. I realize how much I’ve learned when I now get embarrassed thinking about how many things I have bought over the years from stores without a second thought. I now try to buy from companies who produce clothing from organically grown cotton and from sustainable clothing companies. The one problem with purchasing new is the same thing we’ve seen with organic foods- they aren’t cheap. That’s why I only buy things I truly need and love and plan to keep for a long time. Here are some baby steps we’ve come up with to make your closet more sustainable: How to build a more Friendly Wardrobe.

2. Palm-free products

There really is an app for everything, including apps that tell you if products are made with rainforest-destroying palm products. It is in so many products we use every day from foods to cosmetics to household products. Palm oil deforestation over the past 16 years has lead to the decline in the orangutan population (turns out palm oil farmers aren’t fans of the primates who eat the young palm shoots either). The harvesting of huge forests also emits high amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Trying to find palm-free products is tough, but if you’re dedicated, you can find plenty of alternatives and apps to help you navigate good vs bad products and companies. The Android Play Store and Apple Store both have a great selection of apps to help you avoid Palm Oil including POI (PALM OIL INVESTIGATIONS - HOME) which allows you to scan barcodes and the Orangutan Foundation International recommended PalmSmart app. Both are great resources, and who doesn’t love pictures of cute baby orangutans?


3 Buying local

Here I go again with the whole emissions thing, but as we all become more and more dependent on the convenience of online shopping, and trust me- I am a big fan, consider where those products are made and how far they need to travel to get to your front door. When possible, buy local. You’re supporting small businesses and cutting down on fuel needed.

4. Repurposing

Thank you, Pinterest! In my opinion, Pinterest lead a big charge in the home redecorating, do-it-yourself, make something old and ugly into something pretty trend and I must say, I love that so many people are on board. Thrift store finds and garage sale finds can be turned into something amazing with a bit of creativity. My most favorite piece of “furniture” is a set of lockers, yes- like high school lockers! That I got for free from my place of work. I got them home, painted them with some spray paint and they now live in our entryway, holding baseball bats, backpacks, shoes, and coats.

5. Buying from companies you believe in and want to support.

This one is a biggie and a trend I hope so many more businesses make a normal part of doing business. My favorite company,Sword & Plough, has a 4 part platform that makes them the perfect company for me: People, Planet, Purpose, and Profit.

People: S&P is a veteran-owned business that employs and supports other veterans and uses vendors that do the same. The products are made from upcycled military surplus materials and all products are made in the USA.

Planet: Over 40,000 pounds of “waste” has been turned into gorgeous handbags, totes, and jewelry, all made with the highest quality and are meant to last. Hello, sustainable fashion!

Purpose: the company was started by an ROTC cadet after being asked countless questions about why she was in uniform when on campus, Emily Nunez realized that while the military had been her calling and a big part of her family, there were a lot of folks out there who had no interaction and no understanding of military life. She has made it one of the sole purposes of the company to start the conversation through great looking bags.

Finally, through their profits, S&P gives back to several charitable giving partners including Team Red White and Blue, The Green Beret Foundation, Purple Hearts Reunited, and more.

For me, I’m doing what I can to implement more each day. I suggest crazy things to my family to trial for a week at a time- like Vegan Week and No Plastic Week, to see if we

  1. A) can survive and
  2. B) when we do try to stick to most of the principles we learn during our week of trying something new and difficult.

We’ve learned that while we don’t eat organic, grass-fed, or vegan all the time, we now do a lot of the time and we like it. We know cutting palm oil is difficult, but it’s fun researching products together as a family and making a change we believe feels right.

I get to have really cool conversations with people because the bag I carry is made with surplus desert camo and is a nod to my husband’s Marine Corps service and know that it helped reduce waste.

Thank goodness I grew out of the disposable clothes phase and get to enjoy the sustainable lifestyle phase!

Jen Flickinger is a full time working mom of 3 busy kids. Married to a USMC and Army National Guard Veteran, Jen was drawn to the mission of Sword & Plough to bridge the civilian and military divide while promoting awesome looking products.


Posted in lifestyle, sustainability


Posted on March 31, 2019 by Jamie Sheaffer | 0 Comments


Sword & Plough utilizes military surplus fabric and veteran-owned and operated manufacturers to make eco-friendly fashionable bags.  THEN, we donate 10% of profits back to veteran organizations. Lets recap: The impact of your purchase creates a ripple effect that supports veteran employment, sustainability, and veterans in need of assistance.  It continues on to impact our Brand Champions which consist of military spouses, veterans, military family members, and loyal customers. Sword & Plough purchases support relatable, real people.

Robbin Alex is a female veteran on the Sword & Plough Brand Champions team with tons of great stories. If you ever come across her, she will welcome you and definitely show you her big heart.  As a veteran, she has a unique perspective of the Sword & Plough brand and its impact on her life.

What is your greatest lesson learned from being a veteran?: I’ve learned that it is important to me to help our female veterans by empowering them. Making connections and being able to talk to veterans is something I’m good at -- even to those with the toughest backgrounds. Many veterans, female or male, suffer from depression which can complicate getting treatment and lower their self-esteem. I can empower them by letting them know they have a voice. Simply listening to our female veterans allows them to slowly lower their guard and then they can begin to trust me to help them. So many female veterans have been promised so much, sometimes with little follow through, and many get discouraged easily. I love the ability to support my fellow female veterans.

Why did you want to be a Sword & Plough Brand Champion: I had purchased 6 Sword & Plough bags prior to applying for the Brand Champion Position.  It was a perfect fit with my life and beliefs: I’m a veteran and I believed in their mission and loved their products. I proudly support veteran-owned businesses and made in America products. I love that we repurpose military surplus for a purpose, support veteran employment, and support non-profit veteran organizations by donating 10% of profits non-profit veteran organizations.

How has being a Sword & Plough Brand Champ impacted you?: I have met so many awesome fellow Brand Champions with the same love and passion for Sword & Plough. Upon first meeting some of the other team members it felt more like catching up with old friends! I LOVE my job with Sword & Plough- where else do you get front row seats watching the process of a simple idea grow into a nationwide Veteran-owned business? Being a Brand Champion  gives me MCP: #MissionChallengeandPurpose

What is your favorite Sword & Plough product?: My absolute favorite product is the Camo Signature Zip Tote- it was my first purchase! I take it everywhere!

What is your favorite Sword & Plough Giving Partner?: My favorite non-profit that Sword & Plough donates to is Team Red White and Blue.  I am a Chapter Captain and our mission is to enrich the lives of American veterans by connecting them to their community through physical fitness and social activities.

Where can people connect with you?:

Instagram: @swordandploughbyrobbin

Facebook: Sword & Plough Brand Manager Robbin Alex Nebraska


Jamie Sheaffer is an active duty military spouse.  She is attending a hybrid graduate school program at Grand Valley State University to earn her Master’s in Occupational Therapy.  For her school program, she travels from Texas to Michigan once a month with her 1-year-old son and considers herself to be a travel expert.  Of course, she uses her Sword & Plough bags for her trips because they are so durable and practical. She loves being a Lead Brand Champion because she gets to use her creativity to support veteran employment and outreach.


Posted in lifestyle, military education

How to Build a More “Friendly” Wardrobe

Posted on February 24, 2019 by Shelby Black | 0 Comments

How to Build a More “Friendly” Wardrobe

One unassuming day I turned on “The True Cost” on Netflix and everything changed. If you haven’t seen it, close down this tab and start watching it right away (ok, finish reading this blog first). It’s all about how the fashion industry affects the lives of others, the environment, and more. Up until that point, I was completely unaware of how my fashion decisions affected others. I had never considered where my clothes came from.

The truth I found was, whether I knew it or not, my style made a huge impact on others. Scary, but also inspiring. I could make a world of difference by changing my shirt? Game on! I decided it was important for me to make my closet as friendly as I could.  

By “friendly” I mean building a closet that’s filled with pieces with the biggest and best social and environmental impact as possible.  I like this term because it seems easier to digest and covers multiple bases. Considering factors like environmental sustainability, ethical standards, and community impact before purchasing a new addition for your wardrobe will ensure that you are doing your part to use your dollars to look good AND to do good.

Admittedly, I was enthusiastic about the project--TOO enthusiastic perhaps. I started following all of the sustainable Instagrammers, and watched even more documentaries, I read books about fashion and the environment and was ready to change everything I knew and swap my entire wardrobe overnight. It was….overwhelming.

As inspiring as a completely sustainable wardrobe may be, trying to build your personal wardrobe can also be confusing and daunting.  Where do you start? How can you afford a completely sustainable wardrobe? How can you be sure that the company is sustainable or ethical in their practices?

I realized I had to get realistic and take a bite-by-bite approach to build a friendlier wardrobe. Here is what I’ve learned.

These are the 5 guidelines I use when aiming to make my closet a little friendlier.

1. Streamline Your Closet & Define Your Style

According to Business Insider, Americans only use 20% of the clothes in their closet regularly. The first step in building a sustainable wardrobe is to get rid of what you don’t actually wear. Get honest with yourself. If you need help, look to Marie Kondo’s “The Magical Art of Tidying Up” for inspiration or watch her new Netflix show that everyone is raving about. (That’s two Netflix shows I’ve already given you as homework).

Before clearing out my closet, I would spend entire weekends just doing laundry. JUST MY LAUNDRY. This is not an exaggeration. I had to get rid of the clutter. Whether you are aiming to build a more sustainable wardrobe or just get your weekends back, I encourage you to do this first step.

Streamlining your closet is also an essential first step because, if your closet is anything like mine was, it’s daunting to think about having to replace every item in your closet with something more ethically sourced. Cut yourself a break and figure out what you really love, so you know exactly what you’re looking for when it comes to finding a new item. Plus, you’ll be surprised by what you rediscover in your closet.

Streamlining your closet naturally helps you define your personal style. Once you know what you love to wear, you can look for styles that fit your taste with ease. No more buying 10 shirts because they’re all $5, and you will figure out what works when you get home. That isn’t environmentally friendly, nor is it space-saving.

Lastly, cutting down your closet to only the things you love will make you feel great about what you own. You will end up wanting to invest in more quality pieces if you know they are contributing to your closet.

Ok, have I sold you on decluttering your closet, rediscovering what you have, and defining your own style? Let’s move to the next step.

Pro-tip: Find out how you can use what you already own in a variety of ways. A piece like Sword & Plough’s Limited Edition Uniform Tote (made from donated military uniforms) can transition from a fashionable purse to a gym bag, to a reusable shopping bag. One bag, many uses. This rule can be applied to many items in your closet.

2. Repair What You Have

This idea seemed archaic to me. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I had to google how to sew a simple stitch and had to buy a needle and thread to fix my favorite jacket, but I knew that repairing my wardrobe is the key to keeping my closet intact.

Knowing how to repair your clothing will give you the confidence to invest in pieces that you will have for a lifetime.

Pro-tip: Not into sewing? Look for companies that offer repairs on their products like Patagonia and Sword & Plough

3. Raid Your Best Friend’s Closet

The key to an environmentally friendly closet is using things that are already manufactured. Clothing swaps and thrift stores are goldmines for a new wardrobe.

Thrifting & upcycling is the smartest thing you can do for an eco-friendly (and wallet-friendly) wardrobe! By thrifting, you are using materials that are already produced, which is reducing the impact that the environment takes to make a new item of clothing. If you're looking to shop in store, check out your local Buffalo Exchange (linked).  I've had great luck with online stores like Poshmark (linked) for gently used, awesome finds.

You can also opt-in for clothing rental programs like Rent The Runway if you want something trendy but returnable.

3. Shop Sustainable & Ethical

It’s more common nowadays to see a company’sABOUT US story before you even see their products. This is great! This means that companies know that consumers care about who makes their items and under what conditions.

Check out a company’s story before you buy. If you can find a comparable company with better values & standards, go with them. You vote with your dollar. Make sure companies know that you care about where your clothes come from. Extra points if the company is B Corp certified.

Pro-tip: Buying Made in America products typically ensures that the items were made under the guidance U.S. labor laws and also decreases the number of emissions during the transport of your order.

4. Shop Local

Finally, you won’t always be able to shop a sustainable brand that boasts it’s moral values and green production practices, and that’s ok! Building a friendly wardrobe is about doing the best you can and making sustainable choices when you can.

Shopping small business or local ensures that your support means that your dollar is used to impact those in your immediate community.

5. Give Yourself a Break

Your closet isn’t going to be perfectly zero-footprint, and you can’t always be certain of the ethics and source of every thread you put on. However, just one of these steps can make a huge difference.

Do what you can, shop with purpose and understanding, and the world will be a little bit better for it.

Shelby Black is a passionate fan & team member at Sword & Plough. Her love for sustainable fashion started early when she realized that everyone can make a difference with something as fun as fashion. She has been honored to build the Sword & Plough community as the Community & Programs Director.


Posted in Environmental Education, Fashion, lifestyle

Starting Over- Tips for Meeting People and Getting Involved in a New Place

Posted on February 17, 2019 by Alex Wells | 0 Comments

Starting Over:
Tips for Meeting People and Getting Involved in a New Place

Picture this: A few months into the year, you pull up to a government-issued house, with an eighteen-wheeler in tow and a couple of movers ready to unload your belongings. You have no idea how the furniture will be arranged or if all of your paintings will fit on the walls because you have never seen the house before. Though the neighborhood seems lovely, you don’t know anyone. You will eventually get settled, arrange your new home the best you can, and meet people that will become close friends. Then, months later, you receive news that you’re moving...again.

This is the norm for many military members and their families, and a task that can teach anyone, military or not, a few pieces of advice for getting settled in a new area. While moving somewhere new can be intimidating, moving to a place in which you have no control can be even more difficult. The last thing you want to do is put on your widest smile and go door to door, introducing yourself to your new neighbors, knowing that the time will come when you will eventually leave them.

On the contrary, you wonder what would happen if you did. What if this new place is full of opportunities? What if you embrace this move as if you are never going to leave? Will you make the most of it, or will you barricade yourself inside, away from others? Whether or not the move is a choice of your own accord, there are several ways to put yourself out there, get involved, and meet new people, without stepping too far out of your comfort zone.

  1. Introduce yourself to your neighbors and attend events in the neighborhood.

This tip is at the top of the list for a reason. Your neighbors are the people you will interact with daily, so, it works in your favor to jumpstart the introductions. Yes, it might require putting on that smile and knocking on front doors. Luckily, if you live on a military installation, your neighbors have been “new” at one point, too. More often than not, your neighbors might actually come to you, first. Want to beat them to it? Arrive at their house with a small gift, or card. If you’ve just moved in, you most likely won’t have ingredients to make cookies or other treats. However, a card with your contact information and a sweet message explaining how excited you are to join the neighborhood will immediately show your eagerness and willingness to get involved in the neighborhood happenings.

In many neighborhoods, families take turns hosting game nights, such as Bunco, or outdoor cookouts or get-togethers. During the initial meeting, ask your neighbors if they do something similar. If not, now is the perfect opportunity to suggest the idea! Invite some of your new neighbors over to your house for dinner or games and start a weekly tradition.

  1. Check out the rec center and take group exercise classes.
    Most military installations have a recreation center open to families, and some even have group fitness classes available at no cost. Check the website or ask the front desk for a schedule of fitness classes. If you have prior experience teaching classes, you might even ask if they are looking for other instructors. After attending a few classes regularly, you will surely get to know people who have similar schedules and goals.

  2. Get a part-time job.
    You might be relocating because of your job, which, in that case, your network of people has probably already begun to expand. However, while you wait for your new job to start, or if you do not have one, consider getting a part-time job doing something that interests you. This way you will stay busy, earn extra income, and meet new people. Find a retailer that is hiring, or consider nannying, babysitting, or tutoring for a local family.

If you have a hobby like card making, painting, sewing, or monogramming, look for artisan shows and pop-up vendors in your area. Not crafty? Become a Sword & Plough Brand Champion and share Sword & Plough’s story and products at pop-up events within your area.  This is a fun way to show off your talents and meet other artists in your community.

  1. Become a member of a church or other organization.
    Another simple (and free!) way to get involved is by joining a church or organization that matches your beliefs. There are usually several churches on post designed to incorporate a variety of denominations. If you’re not military, or you aren’t living on post, this might require some research. However, once you try out a few places and find one you feel comfortable with you will realize that there are more ways to get involved that go beyond the actual service once a week. Most churches have several events happening throughout the week and on weekends such as potluck dinners, study groups, children’s groups, and more. Ask about volunteering for a drive, becoming a member of the choir, or attending a small group. The greater your involvement, the larger your circle of trusted friends will become.

    5. Volunteer at school, an animal shelter, or a food pantry.
    If you have kids, a super easy way to get involved is by volunteering in their classroom. Most teachers frequently request volunteers and appreciate the help you have to offer. This is also a quick way to meet other parents of your child’s classmates. There are tons of events happening at school throughout the year, like class parties, after-school events, dances, and fundraisers. Be sure to sign up as a classroom or school volunteer at Back to School or Meet the Teacher Night.

    Other places to volunteer are at the local animal shelter, food pantry, or homeless shelter. Not only will you feel good helping others and giving back to the community, but you will also meet a variety of people, including local residents, that share the same passions as you. Most shelters and pantries offer a range of days and times during the week that you can go in and help, which allows you to volunteer according to your own schedule.
  2. Accessorize thoughtfully when running errands.
    This one may sound silly, but think about how many times you have been stopped in the grocery store and complimented on your shoes, necklace, or handbag. An easy way to strike up a conversation is by talking about things that matter to you and that have a story. One of my favorite items to talk about when I run errands is Sword and Plough’s Grey Wool Handbag. The unique design is an instant eye-catcher to strangers. Whenever I receive a compliment on the bag, I immediately begin talking about Sword and Plough and the mission behind it, as well as the giving partner that the bag is associated with. The Bar Necklace is another simple way to draw others’ attention and share a story. Any small-business item that you sport while out and about is sure to be a conversation starter.

Moving can be a daunting task. On top of the physical aspects, like packing, lifting, loading, and redecorating, the thought of having to start over in a brand new place surrounded by people you don’t know can be exhausting. However, getting involved in the community can be easier than you think. Many of the activities that are already sketched into your daily schedule offer wonderful opportunities to explore your interests, put your talents to use, give back to others, and make friends. Whether relocating because of the military, a new job, or a change of heart, know that moving to a new place is more than just starting over. It’s a new adventure full of people ready to experience it with you.

About the Author:
Shurden Garrett is the daughter of a retired Col. in the U.S. Army. She moved twelve times growing up which allowed her to see much of the country and many parts of the world. She resides in Northern Virginia where she teaches elementary school. Her experiences as a military child and her passion for giving back to the veteran community that helped shape her childhood now draw her to Sword and Plough’s mission. She is excited to be a Brand Champion and share Sword and Plough’s story with other like-minded Champs.


Posted in lifestyle, military education


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