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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.

plastic-free gift wrap that’s kind to your wallet and the planet

Nat King Cole plays in the background, as a hot cup of tea sits on your table. Your living room is littered with presents and paper and ribbon and tape, as you begin – wait, where’s the tape?

Sound familiar to anybody? (Yo, I can’t be the only person who loses the tape every. single. time. I set it down. ;))

I actually really enjoy wrapping presents. It’s therapeutic to me. But to some folks, wrapping presents is the worst part of the holidays – need I bring up the tape again?

For the last few years I’ve really tried to limit my waste when wrapping present. Here’s what you’ll likely need to wrap your gifts more sustainably this year…

MATERIALS

I’ve been collecting newspaper, ribbon, tissue paper and gift bags for the last year. Anytime paper was stuffed in one of my packages from Amazon or Earth Hero, I tucked the paper away and recycled the rest. If I got smaller boxes, like ones from RMS Beauty and Elate Cosmetics that contain my makeup, I saved those bad boys, too.

When it comes to reusables, save and save and save.

For example, glass jars. I’ve got a cupboard full of glass jars with lids. I use them for anything from grocery shopping (buying bulk!) to carrying left overs to holding salad dressings to stuffing them with gifts for the holidays!

Same goes for paper. If you get paper in the mail that you could reuse – do it! I have a box brimming with different size boxes and papers and ribbon and all sorts of stuff I’ve gotten over the past year.

If you’re looking for some cute ways to make your gifts more sustainably packaged this year, here’s a few tips.

SUSTAINABLE GIFT WRAP IDEAS

1. Buy twine/string that comes in paper. I got a spool of twine that came in black and white/red and the only packaging it came in was paper! I found this at Target. Also, I found ribbon that was mainly in paper. Clutch!

2. Opt for paper bags! I bought a bunch of brown craft paper bags from a craft store and I’m using them for lots of presents this year. You can jazz them up with some ribbon or greenery and add some tissue paper.

3. Look for tissue paper that doesn’t come wrapped in plastic. It can be hard to find sometimes, but it’s out there! Also, reuse your tissue paper as much as you can. I like to save tissue paper and other items from packages that have been shipped to me. I have a whole bin filled with tissue paper and other packing paper that I use for my Christmas presents!

4. Get creative/go outside. I cut off a few pieces of a pine tree to use as decoration on my boxes and bags. You can use sticks and pine and all sorts of wintery items to dress up your stuff.

5. Opt for paper tape, or use minimal tape. I didn’t use tape in 2019 when wrapping my presents. Instead, I reused boxes and wrapped ribbon or twine around it. The boxes stay shut just fine that way! This year, I invested in paper tape. I got mine from Amazon, but I’d recommend getting some from Etsy. Here’s a link to one I’d recommend. Or, if you want Christmas-y paper take, here’s an option.

6. Use fabric! This year I used an old piece of fabric (it was once a skirt), cut it, and tied a knot around my present. It’s a fun and free way to wrap your presents – and it’s helpful when you are trying to get rid of clothes, or have clothes that aren’t in good enough shape to drop off at the thrift store.

THINGS TO REMEMBER

Less is more. When you’re wrapping something, don’t feel like you have to go overboard. Often, a simple paper bag with some tissue is all you need.

If you see family and friends tossing out tissue paper or boxes, take them with you! Tissue paper can be reused over and over again. Same goes for wrapping paper, boxes, gifts bags, ribbons and anything else.

As far as name tags go, you could write the person name directly on the bag. Or cut a piece of paper into a circle; inside the circle write their name. Then punch a small hole through part of the circle and, using twine, tie it onto my gift. It’s recyclable and simple. Or, use paper tape! That’s what I’ve been doing lately.

How are you wrapping your gifts this holiday season?

waste-free holiday gifts that won’t break the bank

Christmas is around the corner and it’s easy to feel a lot of pressure to buy the perfect gift during the holiday season.

Let’s face it, Christmas can be suuupper stressful.

AND when you’re trying to be more mindful of your waste and plastic use, it can be even MORE stressful.

I’ve been doing some research (and trial and error!) recently and I’ve found some pretty cool, low-waste, inexpensive gifts for family and friends.

Some of these are more general ideas, others are more specific options. Here are a few questions to ask yourself while Christmas shopping this year:

  1. Why am I buying this person a gift? Is it out of obligation because they’re more of a distant relative that I’m not super close with, but I’ve gotta show up with SOMETHING for them to unwrap on Christmas? Or is it someone that means a whole lot to me?
  2. What’s important to that person? What do they value/talk about often?
  3. What are their hobbies? And what can I give that will be practical?
  4. Can I make them something?
  5. What will be something they will actually use?

HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE

Here are a few ideas I’ve come up with…

ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE BOOKS

A GOOD PRESENT FOR: PARENTS, FRIENDS, GRANDPARENTS, SIBLINGS…

dcb_1351I’m not saying to go out and buy a brand-new book (although, you could do that if that’s more up your alley, or better yet, buy one second-hand!). I’m talking about actually giving one of your parents or your best friend a book that’s been super influential to you.

I truly believe a used book is full of magic. Within the pages of that book, someone’s imagination and creative mind is seeped into the fibers of each page. Someone else was wrapped up in the same world you’re reading about… someone else was feeling the same overwhelming excitement you felt as you read those same words. There’s something raw and important about that. There’s some sort of deep connection between people who share a book — I don’t know how to explain it but I swear it’s gotta be true.

Share your favorite books with the people you love! You won’t regret it 🙂

HANDMADE JEWELRY FROM A LOCAL ARTISAN/SMALL BUSINESS

A GOOD PRESENT FOR: MOMS, GRANDMAS, SISTERS, FRIENDS, COWORKERS, RELATIVES….

dcb_1373These earrings are made by my dear friend Maggy and her husband Evens. They run a business called Haitian Shore Beauty and all of their jewelry is made from sea glass from the beaches of Haiti. You can find their Facebook page here.

Check out some small businesses near you that sell artisan-made jewelry. Or check out some fair trade stores like Ten Thousand Villages or Mata Traders for some super trendy, quality jewelry (and other goods!)

MASON JAR CONCOCTIONS

A GOOD PRESENT FOR: PARENTS, GRANDPARENTS, SIBLINGS, COWORKERS, RELATIVES, BOSSES…..

dafe (2 of 10)The options are pretty much endless when it comes to packing things into mason jars. The jars are glass, so they can be reused or recycled, and you can really customize these jars to fit whoever you’re shopping for. Remember to buy items in bulk when you can!

You can find lots of different sizes in mason jars, especially at second-hand stores!

Pinterest has more ideas that I could possible fit in one blog post, so check out Pinterest for some specific concoctions. But here are a few ideas….

Hot chocolate mix
Cookie or cake mix
Candy or chocolates (buy bulk!)
Recipes using dried ingredients

Hand soaps (buy a foaming pump and use Castile soap, avocado oil, essential oils and water and you’re all set!)
Homemade candles
Homemade face mask/beauty products

Homemade lotions
Snacks
Tea (buy loose-leaf and in bulk!)
Coffee
Popcorn (bulk)

QUALITY BEAUTY PRODUCTS

A GOOD PRESENT FOR: MOMS, AUNTS, SIBLINGS, COUSINS, FRIENDS, COWORKERS, BOSSES….

Below are some of my favorite companies where you can find quality products with sustainable packaging…

Meow Meow Tweet*
Fat and the Moon
Burts Bees*
Plaine Products
EarthHero products
Pacifica*
Shea Moisture * (Shea Moisture is black-owned, B-Corp!)
Dr. Bronner’s* (a B-Corp!)
Elate Cosmetics
Beautycounter (a B-Corp!) – a little pricey!
Zao Organic Makeup
*available at Target for easy shopping

If you’re looking to purchase some “treat-yo-self”-type gifts…. check out these guys! They offer plenty of face masks and lotions and lip balm! Lots of their items come in sustainable packaging, too!

REUSABLE WATER BOTTLES

A GOOD PRESENT FOR: LITERALLY ANYBODY

f1057e8e-17c0-4e1a-b747-09412ec7ccc4One of the easiest steps in limiting your waste is using a reusable water bottle and coffee thermos. Hydro Flask and Klean Kanteen are two top rated brands on the market. They’re meant to last for YEARS. They’re a bit pricey, but totally worth every penny. They come in different colors and sizes, too!

COMPOSTABLE PHONE CASE

A GOOD PRESENT FOR: AGAIN, LITERALLY ANYONE. BUT ESPECIALLY SIBLINGS AND YOUR NIECES AND NEPHEWS

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Pela case is a compostable phone case company. I’ve been using my case for months and it’s holding up great! Obviously it’s not going to give the same level of protection as an Otterbox… but I’ve dropped my phone a few times with this case on and my phone doesn’t have a scratch (knock on wood!).

ESSENTIAL OILS + DIFFUSER

A GOOD PRESENT FOR: AGAIN, LITERALLY ANYBODY

I personally use Young Living oils. Just remember, essential oils aren’t the most sustainable product – but they have serious benefits! Use them sparingly and aim to find oils that are made as ethically and sustainably as possible.

HEATING PAD/WARMING PILLOW

A GOOD PRESENT FOR: LITERALLY ANYBODY

dcb_1386My local health food store, the Health Hut, sells these flax seed heating and cooling pads. You either warm them up in the microwave or cool them down in the freezer. They’re made with sustainable cloth and come pre-wrapped.  An item like this will last a while and it could be good for your family or friends who often get aches and pains. A standard heating pad is always a good option too!

ADDITIONAL IDEAS FOR ANYBODY

UncommonGoods: This is one of my favorite stores to buy birthday and Christmas gifts. First of all, they’re a B-Corp. Second, they support other smaller businesses who create quirky, nichy items. Third, you can just about guarantee your gift won’t be like anyone else’s 🙂 They have a whole section dedicated to gifts for under $25. And there are options for more expensive gifts you could partner with others to give.

An experience!: Consider buying someone an experience. Date nights, concert tickets, museum memberships, etc. Buying someone an experience doesn’t produce waste, and it’s something they’ll actually enjoy.

Fair trade options: Check out Made Trade and Ten Thousand Villages for some dope fair trade gifts. From jewelry to decor and clothing, they’ve both got awesome options.

Etsy printable: Etsy has some awesome artists that allow you to pay a few bucks to print the picture out yourself! Grab a cheap frame from the thrift store and you’ve got a cheap and unique gift for someone.

For kids: Crayons and coloring materials; wooden toys (check out EarthHero for some dope options!); an experience like a membership to the Children’s Museum; secondhand toys that can be easily sterilized at home.

Sustainable beauty supplies: EarthHero is one of my favorite shops for all things eco-friendly. Check out their items here. Also, they’re a B-Corp – double win! Items like wooden hair brushes, bamboo tooth brushes, organic cotton hair ties, etc….can make great stocking stuffers.

Bamboo or wool socks: Two sustainable options for socks that you can find online on EarthHero, Etsy, Package Free Shop, and others.

DCB_9988

BANGS Shoes: This company sells awesome shoes. 20% of the proceeds go to Kiva, a company that invests in entrepreneurs around the world. Instead of giving people free shoes, this company supports the thought that if you give a person a fish, you feed them for a day, but if you teach a person to fish, you feed them for a lifetime. And it’s supporting entrepreneurship and creativity!

Wool scarf: Package Free Shop last year added alpaca wool scarfs to their site and they’re awesome.

Tote bags/reusable bags: Reusable cotton produce bags make awesome gifts. They can be used for, obviously, produce, but they can also store other things too! Or, they’re even cute as a wrapping paper alternative. My friend Agnes from Andinda Design makes all kinds of cool products using second hand cotton! She makes cotton rounds, bento bags, produce bags, pouches and lots more. Check out her Etsy shop here.

Quality blanket: Everybody could use a good blanket! Look for some that are made sustainably or with recycled or eco-friendly materials.

dafe (6 of 10)

Leaf cuttings: Trim off a few cuttings of your monstera or pothos and stick it in an upcycled jar with some water. It’s a fun little gift to give to someone looking to up their at-home jungle vibes 😉

Loose-leaf tea + strainer: This is definitely a gift I’d LOVE to have. You can find some really great loose-leaf tea at the grocery store — or a local tea shop — and pair it with a strainer. Loose-leaf tea tastes better and it’s much better for the environment!

French press; coffee bean grinder; bamboo or stainless steel straws; to-go cutlery (check out EarthHero!); quality cloth + glasses case for those who wear glasses (anyone else struggle to keep your eye glasses clean!?)….etc.

dcb_1379

DIY foaming soap: Buy a foaming pump (unfortunately I got mine off Amazon) and add it to a smaller lid mason jar. Add castile soap, essential oils and some oil of your choice (I like avocado because it’s moisturizing!). Fill it with some water and you’re good to go!

dafe-1-of-10

Check out second-hand stores! This might sound like I’m just trying to be cheap, but I’m really not. Second-hand stores can have incredible stuff! I’ve gotten lots of friends and family members gently-used books that look like new! You can find toys and clothes with the tags still on. You can even find some pretty quirky items, too. Stop by your local thrift store and see what you can find 🙂

Note: This story was updated Nov. 2020 with additional information.