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Tips for dressing more sustainably

Sustainable fashion is pricey.

If you Google “sustainable clothing,” you’ll find lots of options. T-shirts made from 100% organic cotton, leggings made from recycled plastic bottles, fair trade scarves… and so on.

But most of those items are around $100 a piece. They may be a better option for the planet, but not so much for your wallet.

If you’re looking to invest in some more sustainable options, but you’re not tryna break the bank, I gotchu. Me too.

I’ve come up with a few tips to dress more sustainably, and I’ve listed some brands I feel good about giving my dollars to.

THE MOST SUSTAINABLE OUTFIT IS THE ONE YOU ALREADY OWN

This is probably not the answer you’re looking for, but it’s true.

A study conducted by Jenny Hall, an anthropologist studying the environmental effects of fast fashion, found that for the average household in the UK, around 30% of clothing goes unworn over the course of a year.

That might seem like a high percentage, but I know for me, I have a handful of outfits I wear regularly… and the others are articles of clothing I wear on occasion, or ones I tell myself I’ll eventually have the confidence to wear. But I never actually take them off the hanger.

I think that’s probably the case for many of us. It’s the “what if there’s an occasion I’ll need it!” or “one day I’ll lose enough weight to fit into those pants again!” mentality that keeps our dressers overstuffed with outfits we haven’t worn in years.

When going through your clothes, check in with the status of some of your dusty outfits. Have you worn it in the last year? Why or why not? If it doesn’t fit, don’t keep it!

(Perhaps the topic of another article, but in my experience, keeping your “skinny” pants that you hardly fit into anymore isn’t good for you. It’s a pair of pants… it’s not your identity. Let it go and find a different pair that fit you beautifully. You’ll look like a million bucks and you’ll feel cool as heck.)

If you’re having a hard time parting with some of your clothes, put them in a bag and set them somewhere you won’t see them. Keep them there for a month. If you haven’t thought about them during that time, either donate them, give them away or try to sell them online.

We need to normalize rewearing outfits, too. I remember in high school I was petrified of wearing the same shirt more than once a week. Now, I’ve gotten rid of so many of my clothes that I rewear the same shirts in the same week all of the time. There’s nothing wrong with rewearing clothes! Pair your black T-shirt with a jean jacket one day. Then the next day wear a scarf. Maybe the day after that wear a blazer with it and tuck in your shirt. There are tons of ways to rewear your clothes while making you feel fresh with each wear.

SECONDHAND OPTIONS CAN BE CHEAP, UNIQUE, AND MORE SUSTAINABLE

Quality jeans, 100% cotton T-shirts, quirky jackets and some other general clothing staples are usually fairly easy to thrift.

If you’ve been to your local thrift stores, like Goodwill and the Salvation Army, and you swear you can’t find anything that fits your style. I get it. I’ve been there.

I’m a pretty avid thrifter. The vast majority of my clothes are thrifted, but I still leave SalVal empty handed now and again.

Here are a few tips for what to look for when you go thrifting.

  1. Know what you’re looking for. If can be really difficult to find something if you don’t know what you’re looking for. If you need a cute jacket, go to the thrift store with that in mind. Look through Pinterest for some inspiration of what you’re looking for. Keep in mind the shape of the jacket, or the general pattern, and have an open mind when you walk down the aisles.
  2. Try stuff on. I’ve grabbed a dress that I thought was hideous and then tried it on and fell in love. You never know how something will fit your body until you try it on!
  3. Step out of your comfort zone. While you can find some basics at a thrift store, sometimes the most fun is when you find the most obscure looking shirt and then when you try it on, it’s your new favorite item. You never know what you’ll find.
  4. Shop for basics. A black T-shirt, a nice pair of Levi jeans, a leather jacket… all of these things are usually easy to come by at the thrift store. You may not think to go there for a replacement to your favorite T, but give it a shot. They may have the brand you like there for half the price!

OTHER SECONDHAND OPTIONS

Here is a list of some online secondhand stores that might be easier to shop during the pandemic:

Depop
Ebay
Etsy
Goodwill online
Patagonia Worn Wear
Poshmark
ThredUp

ECO-FRIENDLY BRANDS I DIG

Full disclosure, I’ve never purchased clothing from a sustainable company. I usually go the secondhand route.

However, I’ve been trying to buy my jewelry from fair trade and sustainable companies. I like to get my jewelry from Ten Thousand Villages, Mata Traders and Made Trade.

Here is a list of companies that are quality sustainable brands. Some are more reasonably priced, while others are ridiculously expensive. I’d love to eventually purchase a few items from these shops, but I just haven’t had the money. If you do purchase something from one of these places, please let me know what you think!

This list isn’t exhaustive. There are countless sustainable brands out there. However, I wanted to list companies that I know to be quality. Again, I haven’t purchased from most of these, but I’ve heard only good things. Most of these are a bit pricey, so if price is a concern, maybe stick with secondhand stores. Or, buy one or two staples from one of these sustainable stores.

Conscious Clothing
Girlfriend Collective (super inclusive sizing for yoga/work out clothes!)
Kotn
Made Trade
Mata Traders
Pact
Patagonia
Ten Tree

OPT FOR CLOTHING YOU’LL USE ALL THE TIME

Buying clothes from a brand like Target or Walmart isn’t bad. Don’t feel shame about it! If you find an article of clothing that you really love, that fits you well, you feel confident in and you haven’t been able to find a more sustainable, inexpensive or secondhand version of, go for it.

If I’m being honest, everything I’m wearing in that photo above is secondhand –– except for my overalls!

They’re from Target. I got them several months ago when I was looking everywhere for secondhand overalls. I looked all over the place and didn’t find any that fit, or that I liked. When I went to Target and spotted these bad boys, I fell in love. They fit great and I felt really confident in them.

So I bought them. And then I felt such guilt for buying something that wasn’t “sustainable” enough.

But I told that thought to get the heck out of here, and I’ve enjoyed wearing my overalls ever since. They’re a staple in my closet that get lots of use.

Like I said before, it’s not wrong to buy something because it makes you feel good and gives you a much needed confidence boost. But when you can reasonably make a more sustainable choice, always try to go the more sustainable route.

LOOK FOR “ORGANIC” MATERIALS

*Not necessarily certified organic materials… I’m talking materials that are plastic-free and can break down more easily in nature.

100% cotton, linen, wool, hemp, silk, jute, flax, etc. are less likely to contain microplastics, which end up in our waterways. When you’re thrift shopping, or shopping anywhere, look at the tag!

THE PROBLEM WITH MICROPLASTICS

There’s been lots of research conducted regarding microplastics that come off of clothing — especially clothing made from plastic such as polyester and acrylic.

Here are a few articles talking about the problem with microplastics:

Vox wrote an article based on a few different studies, with this one looking at how fish ingest microplastics, and this one looking at how microplastics are released from clothing.

The study “Release of synthetic microplastic plastic fibres from domestic washing machines: Effects of fabric type and washing conditions” conducted by Imogen E. Napper and Richard C. Thompson found that in a typical washer, over 700,000 fibers could be released from a 6kg (or around 13 pound) load of acrylic fabric laundry. From their study, they found some microplastics can pass through water treatment plants. They believe this could be a large reason microplastics are found in aquatic habitats.

Even “organic” clothes produce microfibers in the water system. However, more natural fibers can more easily breakdown.

While there isn’t a total consensus on whether or not fiber catchers are the best option, some studies have found that they lessen the amount of microplastics and fiber that go into waterways.

There are a few different options for these fiber catchers, but the easier one to use appears to be the Cora Ball.

The Cora Ball is a laundry ball that you toss into your load of laundry. It supposedly catches the microplastics and fibers!

The GuppyFriend is a laundry bag that does the same thing. You toss your clothes in the bag, throw the bag into the wash, and the bag supposedly catches the microplastics.

I haven’t personally used a fiber catcher before, but I would like to buy one at some point to at the very least use when I wash my polyester/plastic clothing.

I’m not sure which one is better, as I haven’t used either one. But check out reviews on both and do some research to see if you think it’s worth it!

If you don’t want to get one of those fiber catchers, here are a few other options to lessen the likelihood of microplastics getting into the waterways.

  1. Wash your clothes less often. This is simple enough!
  2. Wash your clothing in cold water. Not ideal for certain articles of clothing, but could be helpful!
  3. Buy better quality clothes that are less likely to shed significant microfibers and microplastics.
  4. Buy clothes made from cotton and other natural options. While 100% natural fibers are the best route, the study conducted by Napper and Thompson showed that even fabrics with a blend of 50-50 polyester and cotton shed significantly fewer microplastics when compared to a fully polyester or acrylic option.
  5. Buy fewer clothes.

Overall, as I always say, give yourself grace. Buy sustainably when you can. Opt for secondhand when it works for you. Remember that the most sustainable outfit is the one you already own. And most important of all, be kind to yourself and to others –– we’re all doing our best out here! 🙂

Grace and peace to you, my friends.

100 ways to care for the planet, even when you’re broke

Many of us live paycheck to paycheck.

When finances are tight, the last thing on our minds is how we can make more environmentally friendly decisions.

Finding ways to support our families and ourselves while trying to do our part to help the planet isn’t always straightforward.

I’ve come up with 100 ways to be more mindful, help the planet and those around you, and do it either for free or on a budget.

Obviously you don’t have to do all of these things. And I’m sure there’s plenty of items I neglected to put on this list. But I’m hoping this gives folks some ideas that may feel less obvious, but are still beneficial to the planet, ourselves and one another.

I’ve split the 100 up into five categories:

  • Reuse/upcycle
  • Try something new
  • Make small changes
  • When ya gotta buy stuff
  • Take action

Some of these options are obvious – i.e., recycle. But others may surprise you. You may have been doing most of these all along and never realized that you’re actually helping the planet.

Windows of goodness; little bursts of truth. That’s what we need more of these days. Turning the lights off when you leave a room is helpful to the environment – and to your wallet. Working in your garden is good for your mental, physical and emotional health. And it’s great for the planet. Those little things are small joys, little wins that you should feel good about.

Instead of looking at all the ways you’re lacking, recognize that within you an orchard is growing. Water it and keep it healthy. In keeping ourselves healthy – mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually – we can lend fruit from that orchard to our neighbors that need it most.

Take care of yourself, and in doing so, you’ll become a better advocate for your friends, family, and the Earth.

We’re all in this together 🙂


REUSE/UP-CYCLE

  1. Use a reusable water bottle
  2. Repurpose old containers
    I usually reuse glass jars like sauce jars, pickle jars and salsa jars.
  3. Reuse your cardboard to make Christmas decorations or other decorations
    There are some awesome Pinterest tutorials on how to make Christmas trees out of recycled cardboard!
  4. Bring a reusable thermos when you go to a coffee shop
  5. Keep packaging from shipments to use for later wrapping
  6. Keep your gift bags and other wrapping from gifts
    Instead of throwing away gift bags and tissue paper, keep it!
  7. Up-cycle jars as propagation stations
    I like to use glass dressing jars that have a slimmer neck
  8. Up-cycle your plastic by making ornaments and other decor items
    Instead of throwing away or recycling a plastic cup, consider cutting it and painting or decorating it. Poke a hole in it and hang it on your tree as an ornament, or make earrings out of it!
  9. Reuse newspaper to wrap presents, line trash cans, etc. 

TRY SOMETHING NEW

  1. Learn to sew
  2. Make a small garden
    Plant easy to take care of veggies like tomatoes and peppers
  3. Mend your clothing
    Or if you personally can’t mend your clothes, send them to a tailor!
  4. Make plant-based meals once a week
  5. Compost
  6. Start a local trade/swap club of books, clothing, movies, etc.
  7. Get a library card
  8. Learn to knit or crochet
  9. Make your own cleaning products using vinegar and baking soda
  10. Instead of going out to dinner with friends, host a few friends at your home for dinner
  11. Minimize your wardrobe
  12. Instead of donating to thrift stores, consider selling or gifting items you no longer want
    Thrift stores are overwhelmed by donations. Most of the donations we give don’t actually make it to the shelves at Goodwill anyway… many end up in the landfill.
  13. Propagate your plants

    Plants are good for your mental health and for the air. A good mental state and healthy air allows you to make better choices.
  14. Recycle at work, and if your company doesn’t, talk to your HR department about starting a recycling program
  15. Teach your children about sustainability through educational books and videos
    Check out EarthHero and Uncommon Goods for some great books!
  16. Listen to audiobooks
    If you don’t want to support Audible (AKA Amazon), there are plenty of apps that connect to your library card, allowing you to listen to free audiobooks. Hoopla is one option.
  17. Send e-invites instead of physical invitations, or if you use physical paper invites, opt for recycled paper and then ask your friends/family to recycle once they’re done
    This year, we used Paper Culture to create our holiday cards. They’re a great company and use recycled paper!
  18. Minimize areas of excess
    Skincare products and electronics are two areas that promote serious consumerism. Consider minimizing your routine/what you have.
  19. Declutter your home to make room for more life-giving products
  20. Tie dye your clothes using food scraps
    I’ve never done this, but Pinterest has some awesome tips!
  21. Use a menstrual cup instead of pads or tampons
    Check out my post here about why I love my menstrual cup.
  22. Make a list of what you throw away each day/week and see if you can find plastic-free alternatives
  23. Invest in red wigglers, which are worms that basically act as an all-natural garbage disposal
    This has been on my to-do list for a few years now! Perhaps I’ll write a post about this one day. But if you’re not into composting, maybe red wigglers are a good option for you!
  24. Give an experience gift instead of a physical gift 
    Memberships to the museum or zoo, concert tickets, etc. make great gifts.

MAKE SMALL CHANGES

  1. Recycle
  2. Use your pens until they’re completely out of ink
  3. Minimize how much tape you use, or use paper tape
  4. Adjust your heat and a/c when you’re out of town
  5. Opt for aluminum
    Aluminum is a super recyclable material. If you have to choose between plastic or aluminum, definitely go for aluminum and then recycle it!
  6. Don’t litter
  7. Use up all your paper before buying a new notebook
  8. Turn off your lights when you’re not in a room
  9. Avoid palm oil unless you know it’s sustainably sourced. Read food labels.
    Palm oil is largely unethically and unsustainably harvested. I’ll write a post on this in the coming months.
  10. Pop your own popcorn over the stove instead of using microwave bags
  11. Opt for refillable products whenever possible.
  12. Recycle your contact lenses properly using a TerraCycle location nearest you
    Check out my post here about how I recycle my contact lenses and blister packs.
  13. Use a safety razor or an all-metal razor like one from Leaf Shave
  14. Say, ‘No, thanks!’ to straws at a restaurant
  15. Don’t take a receipt unless you really need one, or have it emailed to you
  16. Go paperless for your paychecks and bills
  17. Bring your own reusable bags when out shopping
    I try to keep some reusable/cotton bags in my car so I don’t forget to bring them with me.
  18. Check with your local homeless shelter and other similar agencies to donate items you don’t use enough
  19. Instead of paraffin wax candles, consider diffusing essential oils or make/buy your own candles
    Opt for more sustainable and environmentally friendly options like sustainably sourced soy and beeswax. This article talks about paraffin wax a bit.
  20. Limit airplane use 
  21. Use bar soap as opposed to liquids, as they tend to come with less packaging
  22. Use a French press or traditional coffee maker
    Opt for biodegradable filters. Keurigs are pretty wasteful. But if you already have one, use it! Try to find refillable coffee pods instead of disposable ones.
  23. Check with your local recycling company to make sure you are recycling the right items and that you’re properly cleaning them out and removing the label
  24. Bring nature indoors and use fallen branches, pinecones, etc. for home decor

WHEN YA GOTTA BUY STUFF

  1. Shop local/support small businesses
  2. Stop shopping from Amazon, or only buy from Amazon when it’s absolutely necessary
  3. Buy secondhand electronics
  4. Buy secondhand books
  5. Buy secondhand clothing
  6. Invest in a Kindle or other digital book device
  7. Buy fabrics and yarn secondhand
  8. Buy sustainably packaged beauty products, like ones you can refill
    I love Elate Cosmetics and RMS Beauty for their refillable, quality makeup.
  9. Support businesses that advocate for a circular economy
  10. Buy from farmer’s markets when possible
  11. Buy meat from a local butcher/farm
  12. Purchase rechargeable batteries.
    I got mine from Amazon, but other local stores should have rechargeable batteries, too. Rechargeable batteries are a game changer. You never have to buy batteries again!
  13. Support B-Corporations and other sustainable businesses
  14. Opt for microplastic-free clothing/fabric options
    Options I like include 100% cotton, linen, wool, etc. Read the label before making a purchase. Microplastics in polyester and other fabrics shed from our clothes while in the washer and can be damaging to our aquatic ecosystems.
  15. Buy in bulk when it’s available
  16. Buy loose-leaf tea instead of bagged tea, which typically has micro plastics in it.
  17. Buy outfit staples that will last a long time
  18. Buy from brands that are known to be quality: second-hand/gently used Levi jeans, for example.
  19. Buy a sustainable phone case like Pela
    Pela phone cases are compostable! Either compost them yourself or send them back to Pela and they’ll compost them properly.
  20. Before buying something, ask yourself if you actually need this item or if you just want it
  21. Buy 100% wool socks.
    Wool is temperature regulating and it’s more sustainable.
  22. Use LED lightbulbs
  23. Buy an Etsy print from a small business and print it out yourself to hang in your house
  24. Buy wooden toys for your children instead of plastic ones
    Many can be found secondhand! Or check out Earth Hero for some great sustainable options.
  25. Buy secondhand kitchen supplies like blenders, crock pots, etc.

TAKE ACTION

  1. Volunteer at a nonprofit or agency
  2. Join local clean ups
  3. Pick up litter when you see it
  4. Take colder showers
    It saves energy and wakes you up in the morning!
  5. Go outside and get in the dirt.
    Studies show getting outside can improve our quality of life, which will encourage us to make better choices.
  6. Read at least a page of something everyday
  7. Vote in local elections
    Not just presidential elections: vote for your mayor, state representatives, school board members, etc.! Know your local leadership and talk to them about issues that are important to you.
  8. Wake up early and go for a walk
    The fresh air can do wonders for a crappy morning.
  9. Drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up
  10. Do stretches each day
    When you’re healthy and strong, you can be a better advocate for others.
  11. Drink less coffee and more water
  12. Walk or bike as often as you can
  13. Support your local newspaper

    Local news is integral to our democracy. Support your local paper!
  14. Use items for double purposes
    I like to use avocado oil to take off my makeup and I also cook with it! 
  15. Donate to nonprofits and other organizations you feel connected to
  16. Participate in local government meetings and let your voice be heard
  17. Listen
    Listen to people who disagree with you, listen to groups of people who are hurting, listen to the Earth.
  18. Be kind
    Most importantly, be kind to one another. We are all going through different obstacles. Some folks can easily recycle, buy bulk food, and minimize their waste. For others, they may not have as many resources available, making minimizing waste not exactly a priority. Wherever you are, and wherever your neighbor is, extend grace to each other. We need grace a little extra these days.

    And don’t forget that an orchard grows within you. Share its fruit with those you meet.

Grace and peace to you, my friends.

meet leaf: the sustainable razor you’ll actually love

Zero wasters and minimalists rave about safety razors.

But when I bought my first safety razor, I wasn’t that into it.

Sure it gave me a close shave – but usually at the expense of scrapped up knees that left me feeling like a 13 year old shaving for the first time. I liked that I didn’t have to continuously rebuy razors…

But using a traditional butterfly safety razor is tricky. I have a whole post dedicated to how to use a traditional butterfly-style safety razor. Check that out here.

I honestly really liked my butterfly safety razor from Albatross once I got used to it. (There is a serious learning curve with safety razors.) But after I broke my second one, I thought maybe I should opt for a different style.

LEAF SHAVE

I first saw advertisements for Leaf Shave’s razor on Instagram. I saw how sleek and pretty it looked. And then I saw the bendy head and I knew I needed it.

At the time I was using Albatross, which is a great brand and makes awesome safety razors. But I was low-key hoping my razor would break (again) so I could buy a new one.

And boy was I lucky when my Albatross broke.

I bought this bad boy and I can easily say it’s one of my favorite zero-waste items I’ve ever bought. And there is no learning curve with using it, unlike the butterfly razor.

GIMME THE DEETS.

This all metal razor is plastic free. And that’s important because think about how many plastic razors you’ve used in your lifetime. Then multiple that by several million people (perhaps billion who use razors). That’s a lot of waste!

Leaf packages its razors and products entirely without plastic. They also offset their carbon footprint (they’re certified carbon neutral) and support climate action nonprofits. Pretty dope.

Now for the nitty gritty of the razor….

It has a head that bends, so you can easily shave over your knees, chin, and all the intimate areas.

It has three removable blades that can be easily removed by turning the knob on the back of the razor head a few times and lifting up the top portion of the head.

When you buy a razor kit, it comes with 50 razor blades. FIFTY! That’s insane. They’re light weight and fit nicely inside three spaces on the head of the razor.

TALK TO ME ABOUT PRICE…

Like most sustainable items that you only need to buy one of basically forever, it’s not cheap.

A Leaf Kit runs for $113. It includes a Leaf razor and stand, 50 blades and a blade recycling bin.

The razor on its own is $84.

But again, this razor will last you a long time. It ends up paying for itself after a year or so. Similarly to a menstrual cup (check out why and how I use a menstrual cup here), you only buy one for many many years. It’s an investment up front, but pays off in the end.

ANY DOWNERS?

Metal razors must be properly cleaned and stored – that’s the major bummer about using a safety razor.

I have a whole post dedicated to what you should know before using a safety razor. I wrote the post back when I used my butterfly Albatross razor, but the sentiments transfer to this razor, too. Wash it off, dry it and store it in a cool place. Metal will rust. While the Leaf is noticeably more resistant to rust than a traditional safety razor, it can still rust, so be sure to take good care of it.

Also, recycling blades is difficult. Most curbside pick up locations don’t accept blades.

But! If you mail your blades back to Leaf, they will properly recycle them for you! Just be sure to put your blades in a tin of some sort – either the one they give you or a mints container. I love companies that are proponents of a circular economy!

Also, the razor is covered by a lifetime warranty related to any defects that arise with the razor, such as the screw closure not working, the blade fillers are uneven, or the springs have broken.

Overall, I’d highly recommend investing in a Leaf. If you’re interested in a way to minimize your plastic use everyday, and can afford to hash out $113 bucks, buy a metal razor. And I’d say the Leaf is the best one on the market.