I recently moved and made a lot of choices that were not eco-friendly, sustainable, or non-polluting. I’m discussing collective trauma, climate change, and systems that make it hard to be totally eco-friendly as individuals, and why that shouldn’t be the goal in the first place.
The Benefits of Deadstock & Recycled Fabric
Deadstock refers to fabric produced for a collection that was never used due to a flaw in the fabric or overproduction by the textile mill.
Recycled refers to fabric upcycled from garments that had a previous life.
Producing new items with deadstock or recycled fabrics can be extraordinarily sustainable for a couple of reasons. For one, the majority of water required for garment production is used to convert raw fiber into workable fabric and during the dye process. Upcycled textiles require very little water use unless the designer opts to re-dye this fabric for their collection. Not to mention that finished textiles repurposed for secondary collections are, by definition, secondhand. Making use of preexisting fabrics not only reduces required resources, it theoretically keeps fabric out of landfills by giving them a new life.
Is Deadstock Greenwashing?
I use the term theoretically because if you google "deadstock fabric," you'll see that there is some debate around the environmental efficiency of using deadstock.
One brand owner claims that most mills operating "overseas" in garment sectors like Cambodia and Bangladesh actually overproduce intentionally to appeal to different markets, which means that using something labeled deadstock from these markets is a form of greenwashing since even the apparent "overstock" was always intended to be used in garment production. But a garment industry expert interviewed for Eluxe Magazine describes a scenario in which an independent designer changed her mind about a fabric run, which left the mill responsible for selling off fabric for which they originally had a buyer. In this case, the fabric would be considered true deadstock since it was doomed to sit in a warehouse until the mill could find a buyer.
Meanwhile, my pal Whitney at Fashionista nuances the discussion by pointing out that higher end fabrics sourced by US-based brands like Reformation were probably never likely to be tossed into landfills and thus the argument that deadstock is the most sustainable option is based on a misleading narrative. That being said, it's still a good choice for smaller scale and indie brands that want to choose a more sustainable option and don't mind producing in limited runs.
It seems to me that, even if international mills are producing some overstock to be sold at bargain bin prices, deadstock isn't exactly a lucrative business when compared to first-round production. Because the fabric available in this market isn't normally traceable, you can't just order more of it to meet demand. To me, this seems to imply that we can trust that most deadstock is a true secondhand product and not a conspiracy.
There are still ecological limitations with deadstock fabric. Since it can be difficult to get accurate information on the fabric content, companies simply can't ensure that the fabric is naturally derived and biodegradable. And with companies that source vintage deadstock, you're much more likely to end up with a finished product made out of microfiber-shedding polyester.
All that to say, sourcing anything at all from the secondhand market is a GREAT idea despite its limitations. When thrifting just doesn't do it for you, turn to these brands that use deadstock or recycled fabrics for their collections.
Further clarification courtesy of Rachel Faller, founder of Tonle:
I wanted to add to this that there are really several categories of pre-consumer textile waste. Deadstock is of course a big part of this, and perhaps the most contentious as you point out - but there are also offcuts and items that fail quality control during the process of production. While deadstock is sometimes planned into the production by mills, the other two are more clearly a kind of waste and a little less easy to recycle to the average designer or factory. At tonlé, the majority of our scraps are the later two categories and we see this as being very different from deadstock. Many of our materials are also post-consumer recycled. Thanks again for bringing this up and discussing the nuances here!
9 Sustainable Fashion Brands That Use Recycled and Deadstock Fabrics
1 | Fauxgerty
Sizes XXS-XL. Sourcing primarily American made vintage deadstock, Fauxgerty makes West-coast inspired classics for women.
Featured Item: The Sasha
Sizes PS-3X. The Renew collection features new designs made from old Eileen Fisher designs plus gently used clothing, proving that brands can be committed to circularity.
Featured Item: Striped Pullover (one of a kind)
3 | Reformation
Sizes XS-XL. Using deadstock and upcycled textiles throughout its entire line, Reformation is sexy, spirited, and vintage inspired.
Featured Item: Cashmere Boxy Sweater
4 | Tonle
Sizes XS-XL. Tonle strives to have zero waste production, with many of their designs created to make use of fabric scraps left over from pattern cutting. Case in point: this jacket.
Featured Item: Palm and Wine Jacket
5 | Dorsu
Sizes XS-XL. Using factory remnants from Cambodia's garment factory, Dorsu produces a smart collection of contemporary, casual basics.
Featured Item: Slouch Pant
6 | Christy Dawn
Sizes XS-XL. The dreamiest of the bunch, Christy Dawn prioritizes vintage deadstock to produce their feminine, vintage-inspired dresses and jumpsuits. They even use recycled leather in their boots.
Featured Item: Basil Dress
7 | Neo-Thread
Sizes vary. Upcycling all the way! Modern silhouettes and embroidered clothing made from vintage and thrifted clothing.
Featured Item: Celestial Jean Bomber (one of a kind)
8 | Liz Alig
Sizes XS-XL. Using a combination of recycled materials and upcycled textiles, Liz Alig offers offbeat cotton clothing for women.
Featured Item: Dilsi Overalls
9 | Re/Done
Sizes vary. Vintage denim turned into...denim, but in a cool way. Re/Done modernizes silhouettes to bring new life to old jeans.
Featured Item: Academy Fit, size 27 (one of a kind - shop by size and style on the website)
I hand selected products and brands for this co-sponsored post. Contains affiliate links.
For some reason, I always get the urge to change my handbag in the fall.
It's probably the back-to-school scheduling that's been reinforced since kindergarten, but I also think it has something to do with pre-winter nesting. "Get your act together, Leah. The cold days will soon be here."
There are a lot of ethical brands that sell beautiful, vegetable tanned leather handbags, but honestly, I'm trying to get away from new leather goods for both environmental and ethical reasons. I recently befriended a shoemaker who gave me some pretty startling information about the nature of leather and its relationship to the meat industry and
by my friend, Tavie, and it made me realize that if I'm serious about conservation and ethics, I need to do more to reduce the use of animal products in my life. (The shoemaker will be featured in an interview next month, so I'll let her fill you in on the details later).
There's also an issue with
since they're derived from crude oil and not biodegradable.
The bags - and brands - in this roundup are made with minimal leather (only one has a leather strap) and either renewable or zero waste, upcycled resources. They prove that it's possible to create a sturdy statement piece while prioritizing labor ethics and sustainability.
5 Places to Find Sustainable + Vegan Handbags
1 | grünBAG
A company that takes upcycling seriously, grunBAG makes backpacks and purses out of recycled lifeboats, banners, sails, and industrial tarps used in the trucking industry. Since these textiles have already been weather proofed, they are perfect for go-anywhere bags.
is made with surplus tarp used to cover trucks, and has a nice fold-over style that allows you to load it up with souvenirs, notepads, or whatever else you may find yourself carrying throughout the day. I especially like it for travel since it's water proof.
The Price Point:
2 | Malia Designs
A longtime favorite - my sister and I both already owned Malia Designs' bags and my mom has a wallet - Malia Designs makes bags out of recycled cement and feed bags + classic screen printed canvas, paying a fair wage to artisans in Cambodia and giving back to anti-trafficking organizations in both Cambodia and the US.
is made from a cement bag, lined in cotton, and full of storage pockets, perfect for holding a cell phone (or your pet rat - I'm holding my rat, Rosemary, here).
The Price Point:
Most products under $50
3 | Mother Erth
Mother Erth makes artful handbags out of discarded plastic laminated foil from the packaged food industry. Women artisans in the Philippines are paid over 3x the standard wage, and don't have to relocate from rural villages in order to make a living.
While Mother Erth also produces more neutral, minimalistic designs, I really wanted to photograph a bright piece that showcases the raw materials. This multi-color
features sustainably sourced rattan handles, a recycled woven body, and an open silhouette.
The Price Point:
$85 and under
Credited with launching the fair trade movement as we know it, Ten Thousand Villages works with hundreds of artisan partners, providing fair wages while offering innovative, artisanal goods that make great gifts.
is a spacious, structured bag woven with palm leaves and finished with sturdy leather straps (this is the one leather item featured). A reviewer on the site says she's had her bag for 10 years and it still looks new! So far, I've used mine to store items for photo shoots and to carry books. Ten Thousand Villages has lots of
The Price Point:
Varies, but most are under $100
5 | EcoVibe Apparel
EcoVibe specializes in fashion forward, affordable clothing and accessories made with ethical labor and/or sustainable fibers. Their items are well curated and always contain special details that set them apart.
(with a detachable strap) was handmade in Portugal with sustainably harvested cork and costs $112.
The Price Point:
This post is sponsored and contains affiliate links. I shopped EarthHero with store credit received as part of the collaboration package.
I'm not typically someone who gushes. I get excited about new things, sure, but that initial sparkle-eyed joy is tempered by a fair bit of skepticism.
I've reviewed a few companies over the years who hoped to become one-stop-shops for ethical consumers, but many of them either never scaled or shuttered their doors too early to tell. This always makes me sad, because we really *need* one-stop-shops, both for ease of use and for better cost and resource efficiency. If I have to buy my skin oil, sunscreen, kitchen storage, shoes, clothing, and makeup in five or six different places, I end up wasting time, money, and packaging that could have been used for something more world changing. I mean, this is why giant online marketplaces thrive - they offer a service that goes beyond deal-hunting.
For the past several months, I've been shopping from a new ethical marketplace that hopes to change the game for ethical shoppers: EarthHero.
With items ranging from clothing to zero waste goods to skincare, I'm able to place one order and get the bulk of things I need in one go.
About EarthHero's Ethical Criteria
Whenever I'm on websites that offer a mix of ethically produced and conventional products, I end up really frustrated because I can't just read one set of standards and get on with my life.
It turns shopping into a research project, and I believe that's a major barrier to getting more people on board with ethical consumerism.
What I like about EarthHero is that every single product has to meet their minimum criteria for ethics and environmental stewardship...
Additionally, EarthHero places simple logos on each listing that indicate which criteria each product meets. To me, this is really the best way to curate a store. No product or process is perfect, but aiming to gather in several ethical criteria under one umbrella ensures holistic progress.
Clothing + Accessories
While EarthHero is still working on building out its clothing and accessories categories, they're already well stocked in staples. I had been hoping to finally get a pair of casual sneakers, but am becoming increasingly wary of buying leather - even "ethically sourced" leather (more on that later) - so I was pleased to see that EarthHero offered a few options, all under $100. These Saola shoes have skater vibes, but are still streamlined. They have a cork footbed and are made with renewable and recycled fibers. I'm planning to wear them with denim and dresses this season. I think they'll even be good for hikes. (Unfortunately, these sold out right before posting, but EarthHero will have other Saola sneakers in stock in mid-August.) They also carry Indosole espadrilles made with recycled tires. I actually own these, too, and they performed surprisingly well during my trip to NYC.
The Satva Pav Mesh Tee I'm wearing is also from EarthHero. Made with organic cotton and low impact dyes, the sides have breathable mesh inserts that make this black tee surprisingly suitable for hot weather. I like the wide neckline and curved hem - they make the piece feel special, and suitable to pair with loose denim or something a bit fancier.
In addition to women's items, EarthHero carries men's clothing and accessories, underwear, activewear, and more. See the Clothing + Accessories selection here.
Beauty + Care
EarthHero's personal care section is my new favorite place to shop. I have very sensitive skin and a desire for simplicity when it comes to ingredients, so I deeply appreciate a marketplace that does the curation for me. I've tried the
Desert Essence Restorative Face Oil, SW Basics Serum, and Desert Essence Bulgarian Lavender Lotion and haven't had any allergic reactions. Plus, the products are actually effective (I feel like I'm gushing here, but it's really true). I've been dealing with ongoing rashes and skin issues this summer, so it's been refreshing to try products that don't create more problems.
In addition to the products I mentioned, EarthHero carries coral-safe sunscreen, oral care, deodorant, and shaving products.
Home + Zero Waste Living
Last but not least, the oddballs in the bunch. Daniel and I rent an apartment that was built in the late '60s, so our kitchen(ette) has those great mid-century oak cabinets and a wood backsplash. They really needed a good refinish and EarthHero's Bambu Finishing Oil did the trick, especially on the water damaged sections. The oil evened out the tone and created a subtle glossy finish without releasing a strong odor or toxic fumes. See other Home Cleaning products here.
I also finally buckled down and selected some Beeswax Wrap to cover leftovers. I was wary of Bee's Wrap initially because I know that the beeswax eventually breaks down and makes the cloth unusable, but after talking with some of my zero waste blogger friends, I learned that you can always refinish them a couple years down the road. Bee's Wrap works really well as a plastic wrap alternative and the subtly sweet smell of beeswax doesn't hurt, either. EarthHero offers vegan wrap, as well.
See other Zero Waste Living products here.
Because of EarthHero's ambitious goals and comprehensive selection, some items go out of stock pretty quickly and some categories, like Clothing, are still under capacity. That's to be expected at this stage. Overall, I have been really impressed with the selection, site navigation, and prices of items - not to mention the clear ethical standards - and would recommend EarthHero to anyone who's grown tired of having to shop in ten different places for the things they need. Especially if you're, like me, just building up your zero waste essentials while also needing bits and bobs from other categories.
Free shipping over $50
Sponsored. Contains affiliate links.
It's still #PlasticFreeJuly and, admittedly, I haven't been paying enough attention.
I had good intentions, but about one day in, I looked at the carryout container I brought home from a local restaurant, noted its plastic appearance, and slapped my hand to my forehead in shame.
If you've been paying any attention to what is cleverly being termed "Plastic Strawgate," you may also be thinking about plastic use in your everyday life. With England and other
and multinational companies like
(plastic lids??), plastic is all anyone in the sustainable fashion community seems to be talking about. And while that's a good thing, it can also be shaming and unproductive.
Pollution is a systemic issue
, after all, and we've been fed the lie that our waste is being
, so who can blame us for being confused? And then we've got the issue with straws, which we use, more often than not, because they're handed to us outright or put directly into our drinks. Saying no is not a long term strategy, because it's not an individual problem - it's a collective one. That means that we need to question everything from the marketing to the suppliers to the infrastructure, and dedicate more effort to long term change than we currently are.
Nevertheless, it's much easier to make small, concerted changes when we are armed with the tools to do so. When it comes to straws, use them if you need them for medical reasons. Otherwise, say goodbye. When it comes to coffee cups and saran wrap and takeout containers - or even clothing - a little bit of forethought goes a long way. Invest in things that last if you can and lay off the guilt trip if it's not financially or structurally within your means to do so. We in the conscious community have your back.
5 COMPANIES THAT MAKE GOING ZERO WASTE FASHIONABLE & ACCESSIBLE
For zero waste storage & supplies...
1 | EarthHero
On its way to becoming my #1 one-stop-shop for sustainable goods, EarthHero offers a huge, carefully curated selection of goods meant to make zero waste easier, from BeesWrap to food containers to skincare to clothing.
For zero waste clothing...
2 | Tonle
Using factory remnants and employing rigorous zero waste processes to ensure that every last scrap is used in their designs, Tonle makes fashionable, artisanal clothing for women that is anything but ordinary.
Using specialized software, Purse for the People offers custom, made-to-order woven basket bags with minimal waste. Additionally, the bags are created using traditional artisan techniques that honor the cultures of the people who make them.
For eating on the go...
4 | ECOLunchBox
With a strong emphasis on zero waste for families, ECO Lunch Box sells bento boxes, lunch bags, flatware sets, and more to ensure you can go zero waste when eating outside the house.
For bespoke fashion...
Fabric scraps never looked so good. Zero Waste Daniel makes one-of-a-kind garments with fabric leftover from New York City's garment industry through a zero waste process.
For the market...
BONUS | Eco-Bags
Specializing in canvas shopping totes and string bags for produce, Eco-Bags is your one stop shop for bags that will last. I've only just recently come to understand the wonders of a well made canvas bag, and I have to say they're so much better than those flimsy polyester grocery totes they sell in the grocery store checkout line.
Note that when it comes to buying "zero waste" storage products, these items are likely not produced using zero waste practices. Rather, they ensure that, in the long term, you will become less reliant on single use plastic and other non-biodegradable or wasteful disposables. It's important not to over-consume zero waste products because they still create waste during production. Buy less. Choose well. Make it last.
It's been my unofficial policy on StyleWise to request only one or two products for review when I take on sponsored collaborations. It's not that I don't want lots of shiny new things, it's just that my closet could quickly spiral out of control if I acquired dozens of things each month. But I have to say, I am SO glad Rachel at Tonle sent me three varied products to try, because it gave me a sense of the way Tonle's zero waste pieces function as stand-alones and as part of a collection.
And I've gotta say I am really feeling myself in these pieces. They embody the balance of form and function I look for, and the purposeful silhouettes help create a fit that feels custom.
Why I'm a Tonle Super FanTonle is a fair trade, zero waste fashion brand based in Cambodia.
- They produce their entire collection out of remnant materials from larger factories
- They strategically cut patterns to reduce waste
- They sew scraps into "yarn" to produce woven clothing
- Remaining scraps that are too small for yarn are combined with paper and natural glue to make hang tags
- Employees are honored and paid fairly
- Natural dyes are used on all textiles dyed in-house
- Orders are shipped in 100% recycled packaging
- Tonle uses local models and women of color in their advertising and product photos
But I say that's thinking in the wrong direction. I was commissioned by the college ministry at my church to talk about "ethical fashion" this month and I might have confused them a little in last week's lesson, because I didn't talk about consumption at all.
Instead, I talked about the false narrative of scarcity in our capitalist, individualistic culture.
Scarcity claims that:
- there's not enough to go around
- we must circle the wagons, putting our self-interest ahead of the needs of others
- we are inadequate, and the solution is to hoard goods and buy more
I also shared the counter-narrative of abundance.
- there is plenty to go around
- we are valuable and valued
- our lives need not be driven by a fear-based need for more
I believe we must internalize this life-giving narrative before we can begin to consider our consumption. After all, if we don't know what drives us to consume in the first place, we are still being controlled by outside forces. And that means we are still susceptible to the toxic pull of over-consumption, keeping up with the Joneses (or FOMO), and stress shopping.
These are my top 5, very simple suggestions for consuming more sustainably...
1. Buy less.Were you going to go shopping this weekend? Here's an idea: don't.
Go apple picking. See a movie. Go bowling. Do anything at all besides shopping for new goods and see how you feel. In my experience, a lot of shopping is done out of boredom, or to fulfill social needs. If you can find a way to cure the boredom and see your friends without going to Target or the mall or online, do that instead.
2. Ditch the straws, plastic wrap, and coffee lids.It is estimated that Americans use as many as 500 million straws per day, and they're typically not recycled. Straws are not biodegradable. They break down into ever smaller pieces, making their way into oceans where they wreak havoc on wildlife.
If you can resist some of the most common single use plastics, like straws, plastic wrap, and coffee lids, you can make a big impact. When you're out and about, simply say, "I don't need a straw/lid" to your server. When you're at home, consider putting leftovers and cut fruit and vegetables in reusable containers. I keep one reusable container in my fridge at all times, and fill it with onions, peppers, and whatever else needs to be sealed.
3. Upcycle, swap, or buy secondhand.One of my readers just told me that the thrift shop she frequents gets 10,000 donated items in every single day! Americans discard or donate 14 million tons of clothing each year, and only 20% of clothing donated is actually sold in charity shops each year due to saleability and overall demand. The crisis is two-fold: we buy too much new stuff and we don't buy enough used stuff.
The solution starts with step one of this post - buy less - but the problem can also be alleviated by reusing secondhand goods. If your pants are too short, consider cutting them into crops. If you've never like the way that dress fit, see if a tailor can fix it for you. Instead of buying a new dress for that wedding, see if you can borrow one from a friend. And, by all means, go thrift shopping.
If you're looking for specific items, try searching on ebay or poshmark.
Related: Why Everyone Should Support Community Thrift Shops
4. Eat less meat.Many hobby environmentalists claim that the best way to reduce human-caused climate change in the food industry is to shop local. But according to this study, transportation accounts for only 4-5% of greenhouse gas emissions. The biggest culprit is meat production, and more specifically, feeding and raising cows ("red meat accounts for about 150 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than chicken or fish").
Global demand for beef is also bad for the rainforest. Conservationists estimate that 65-70% of Amazon Rainforest deforestation from 2000 to 2005 was because of the meat industry.
Consider cutting your meat consumption in half, or at least to once a day if you're a voracious meat eater. Find some hearty bean dishes on my Pinterest board.
Related: If Everyone Ate Beans Instead of Beef
5. Save up for quality buys.Instead of buying cheap, ill-fitting things that don't particularly suit your taste, consider saving up for high quality items. If there's one big lesson I've learned from nearly 5 years of blogging on conscious consumerism, it's that attention to details matters, in the way you feel in your clothes and in how long the garment will last.
I no longer get sticker shock over a $100 item when I know the quality is good and the manufacturers were treated fairly. The trick is to balance your expensive items with good quality, secondhand and upcycled items. Here's a lesson, too: sometimes you can get really good stuff cheaply on the secondhand market, you just need to keep your eyes peeled for natural fibers, conventional brands that care about quality, and silhouettes that suit your style and frame.
There are hundreds of other ways to make a small impact, but I think it's important that we get good at the things that don't hurt too much before launching into more aggressive changes.
What changes have you implemented that you think are good building blocks for people just getting started?
My Scarcity and Abundance talk was based on Walter Brueggemann's essay, The Liturgy of Abundance, the Myth of Scarcity: Consumerism and Religious Life.
I introduced Plaine Products on Monday in my Zero-Waste Your Morning routine post, but I didn't share a proper review. Today's the day!
To recap, the sister team behind Plaine Products invented the zero waste, subscription shower care company after waking up to the fact that the plastic packaging wrapped around most single-use products doesn't just go away after we discard or recycle it. To the contrary, it piles up on beaches, roadways, and landfills and gets lodged in the stomachs and around the mouths of millions of aquatic and land animals each year, killing or permanently maiming them.
Their solution was to create something that adhered to the ideals of the circular economy, which prioritizes high quality, reusable materials; regular maintenance and mending; and an overall reduction in resources and energy usage throughout the production process. Plaine Products come in stainless steel containers with reusable pumps. When you're getting close to using up a product, you simply head to the website and order a new one along with a return label to send back the old bottle. They'll then clean and refill that bottle and send it off to the next customer.
|Dent courtesy of my clumsiness|
Needless to say, the concept is amazing. I've been wanting something like this to come along for years, and I only wish I could find something similar for facial care products.
But concepts don't mean anything if the product can't speak for itself. Fortunately, Plaine Products are the bomb. I really mean it. I had been searching high and low for zero-waste shampoo and conditioner that didn't leave a lot of residue in my fine hair, and I'd about given up. But the organically derived, palm oil free (and no palm oil derivatives!), essential-oil scented, gentle line they've created has made my mornings so much easier.
I've been testing out Plaine Products' full line - shampoo, conditioner, and body wash - for about a month to ensure my review could be as thorough as possible. Here's my verdict:
ShampooAloe, Coconut Oil, green tea and other pure ingredients combine to make a sensitive-skin friendly, lightweight but moisturizing shampoo. I am dandruff prone because my scalp, like the rest of my skin, is very sensitive, so I was worried this shampoo wouldn't be able to tackle that, but I've had less dandruff and less itchy skin since I started using Plaine Products. With my amount of hair, I just need one pump to get a thorough clean. This is hands down the best shampoo I've used in years. It's not drying like other organic shampoos and, unlike shampoo bars, it leaves no residue.
ConditionerShea and mango butters, jojoba oil, and other fruit extracts make this a medium-weight, replenishing conditioner. Like the shampoo, I only need one pump to throughly saturate my hair. I'm less fussy about conditioners overall, because my fine, straight hair doesn't require a lot of extra moisture, but I like the weight of this one. I actually LOVE this for shaving my legs and underarms because it's moisturizing and easy to spread.
Grade: For hair, A | For shaving, A+
Body WashChamomile, sage, jojoba, and bamboo silk make this a nourishing body wash. Admittedly, I'm more of a bar soap person, so body wash in general doesn't excite me. I like this product to combat dry skin, but it feels a bit too heavy for hot, humid days. I'm looking forward to using it more frequently during the winter.
Grade: B (but hey, that's just me)
I would highly recommend that you try Plaine Products if you've experienced similar issues with shampoo bars and other organic, zero waste skin care products in the past. I can't imagine that you'd be disappointed.
ENTER TO WIN A PLAINE PRODUCTS THREE PACK(SHAMPOO, CONDITIONER, AND BODY WASH)
a Rafflecopter giveaway
1. Buy your coffee or tea in compostable bags.Check your coffee bag or tea box to see if the packaging used is compostable. Some coffee bags have plastic components or are coated with film, which makes it difficult to recycle or compost them. Likewise, not all tea bags are created equal. Make sure the brand you buy uses natural fiber-based bags and strings instead of nylon.
A few of my favorite sustainable options: Virginia-roasted Red Rooster Coffee | Numi Organic Tea
2. Choose compostable or mesh coffee filters.Although most paper coffee filters will biodegrade, it's better for the environment to buy unbleached filters, as bleach filters may carry residual chemicals that can leach into the ground. My preference is to use a mesh, metal filter that simply requires a quick rinse after use each morning.
My favorite sustainable option: Coffee Gator Pour Over Coffee Maker
3. Wash your hands with bar soap.Bar soap requires far less packaging than liquid pump soaps, and some varieties come completely free of packaging, which makes them zero-waste on the consumer end. Best to stay away from antibacterial hand soaps anyway, as they contribute to the growth of super-bacteria that can become resistant to antibiotics, making us less able to fight serious infections. We don't need antibacterial ingredients to rid ourselves of germs: soap works by physically loosening grime and microbes from our bodies and rinsing them away.
My favorite sustainable option: Freedom Soap Company*
4. Buy recycled or Sustainable Forestry Initiative certified toilet paper.According to Leotie Lovely, US residents alone require about 7 million trees' worth of toilet paper each year. For a more sustainable option, choose toilet paper made from post-consumer recycled paper (Trader Joe's sells a version) or, at the very least, find brands that are part of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative program.
5. Buy your shower care items in refillable containers from Plaine Products.The amount of plastic a typical woman requires just to get ready for the day is mind-boggling. I don't even want to think about how many bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash I've purchased over the years, but I'm sure it numbers in the several hundreds. According to EWG's Skin Deep, the average adult uses 9 personal care products each morning, most of it packaged in plastic or glass that, even if recyclable, is destined to go through an exorbitantly inefficient system - and probably travel the world a few times - in order to be reused. And plastic never biodegrades.
I've been furiously seeking out alternatives, but shampoo bars weren't working on my thin hair, especially as it grew longer (a bit of residue doesn't hurt in a pixie cut, but is pretty obvious on fine, straight hair). I needed something gentle, lightweight, and natural.
Plaine Products was, quite honestly, my last hope, and they came through. The company, which produces all natural shampoo, conditioner, and body wash in refillable, stainless steel pump bottles, was founded by sisters, Lindsey McCoy and Alison Webster, after Lindsey had an aha moment in the shower one day. In her words:
I was working at an environmental nonprofit and living in The Bahamas. In the islands there is no “away” to throw your trash. So plastic is everywhere. Overflowing the too-small landfills, on the beaches, in the water, along the side of the road. Once you start to notice single-use plastic you realize it’s everywhere.
Then you start reading. Half of all plastic is used once and thrown away. More than half of all sea turtles have eaten plastic. Over 100,000 marine mammals and 1 million seabirds die from plastic pollution every year. Everyone who has been tested has some residue of plastic chemicals in their body. The list goes on.
Lindsey's environmental background and Alison's attention to quality control helped them develop a simple but effective line of products that makes going low-waste possible for everyone. You can buy their products in 16 ounce containers ($30 each) or travel sizes ($5 each) one by one or through a subscription service, which comes every 4 months. Each time you order, you'll be given the option to request a return label for your empty bottles, and Plaine Products will reuse them for future orders. You keep the pump bottle from your first order to use with your refill.
Plaine Products sends orders in EcoEnclose packaging, which is made of 100% post-consumer/post-industrial recycled materials.
My favorite sustainable option: Plaine Products Three Pack Subscription
I'll be doing a full review and giveaway on Plaine Products next week, so come back for more information about the ingredients and my overall experience.
This week of the Zero Waste Challenge was harder and easier at the same time. I know that doesn't make sense, but here's why. On the one hand, there were some unavoidable trash moments because I attended both an open house through my work and a launch party for new business, Hem and Haw. Where finger food is, you'll almost inevitably find disposable plates and cups and obviously I wanted to eat, drink, and be merry, so I used a couple of cups and a paper plate.
On the other hand, I think I've come up with a long term strategy for reducing my waste.
It's called paying attention.
I'll totally overwhelm myself if I cut everything out at once, but several of you have suggested some easy alternatives to things I wasn't sure I could let go of:
- I currently use cotton balls to apply toner at night. This week, I opted to tear them in half to reduce waste. As soon as I'm out, I'll switch to a crochet ball variety that can we washed and re-used (I previously purchased cotton pads for this purpose, but they weren't absorbent enough). I'll either purchase from an etsy seller or beg my mom to make some for me.
- There are some produce items and food that don't really need to be sealed shut in the refrigerator. As Teresa suggested, I will dedicate a plate or container to half-used onions and cover leftovers with a ceramic plate instead of wrapping everything in plastic wrap. I think I'll also try to stock up/save wide mouth jars, as Eimear suggested, to store bulk items and leftovers.
- At home and at work, I use too many paper towels. As Rebekah suggested, I'll grab some unsellable donations from the shop to cut into rags for cleaning and make sure to put a towel in the bathroom at work for employees to dry their hands off with.
Did I manage to stay abreast of any of these zero waste innovations this week? No, unfortunately. When things get busy, I start to forget that I'm supposed to be reducing personal waste. I've decided to be gracious with myself but move forward with achievable goals.
What I've Learned:
- Watch This Man Walk Around NYC Wearing His Trash
- The Garbage Problem: It May Be Politics, Not Nature
- The Leather Debate: Making the Case for the Real Thing (this piece touches on landfills, so somewhat relevant)
- Fast Fashion is Creating an Environmental Crisis (by Alden Wicker of EcoCult)
- How Your Trash is Contributing to Climate Change
If you didn't catch my introduction to this challenge earlier in the week, please read this post before proceeding.
To say this week's Zero Waste efforts did not go well would be an understatement. Even one of my concerted attempts to make life more zero waste resulted in more waste.
Let's start from where I left off:
MondayI don't work on Mondays, so to some extent I could control my day - and the waste I produced - a little bit better. I made Risotto using arborio rice and mushrooms covered in plastic for lunch, and covered half of my remaining onion with plastic wrap (I know, I know. There's really no excuse for still using plastic wrap, but I always convince myself that it's better than all the water waste that would result from using a storage container. I don't think that's true, probably, but given this article, could it maybe be true?).
Later in the day, I went out to dinner with friends and used a paper napkin.
- Coffee Filter (compostable, but I didn't compost it)
- Packaging on virtually all lunch recipe items
- Paper napkin
- 2-3 Paper Towels (half sheets)
- Cotton Ball
- Toilet Paper (but it was post-consumer recycled if that helps)
- Granola Bar packaging
- Bagel Wrapper (?)
- Several Paper Towels (half sheets)
- Toilet Paper
- Cotton Ball
- Plastic wrapping on a myriad of produce items from grocery store
- Plastic mailer
- Granola Bar
- 3-4 Paper Towels (used at work)
- Toilet Paper
- Cotton Ball
- Plastic covering Amy's Frozen Lunch
- Plastic packaging on Andouille sausage
- Plastic Wrap
- Banana Peel (compostable, but I didn't compost it)
- 3-4 Paper Towels (half sheets)
- Plastic from Cinnamon Rolls
- Toilet Paper
- Cotton Ball
- Plastic mailers
- Styrofoam Container
- 3-4 Paper Towels (half sheets)
- Plastic Wrap
- Toilet Paper
- Cotton Ball
What I've Learned So Far:Well, that's 32 trash bullet points listed for 5 days. I know I can easily get that number down if I just strategize a little better.
- I'm not going to quit toilet paper anytime soon, but I think I'll try to seek out post-consumer recycled options for the long term.
- Gotta find better cotton ball and paper towel options.
- Do a better job of weighing convenience versus reducing waste for produce and other grocery items.
Graphic by Elizabeth Stilwell
After a lively conversation about how difficult it is to go zero waste without losing friends and being mean to service workers (this may be an exaggeration, but it's awfully hard to say no to paper and plastic items when you're not totally in control of your shopping and eating), me and a handful of other members of the Ethical Writers Coalition decided to take on a 2 week long Zero Waste Challenge.
Here are the guidelines:
- Baseline is not sending anything to the landfill.
- As long as you can (responsibly) recycle it or compost it, it doesn't count as waste.
- You have to verify that the items you put in your recycling or compost bins are actually recyclable.
- You must document how much waste you produce and why, honestly.
- Waste produced on your behalf at restaurants and other public places counts as your waste, too.
For the first couple of days, instead of actively going zero waste, I decided to carefully monitor my normal habits at home. Since I'd already purchased food and kitchen implements that produce waste, I used what I had. For simplicity's sake, I'll just be listing the waste I produced.
- Coffee filter
- Pre-packaged spinach bag
- Plastic produce bag containing cucumber
- Plastic wrap and styrofoam tray from mini red potatoes packaging
- Cotton ball
- Toilet paper
- 3 paper towels
- Pre-packaged snack cake plastic
- 3 pieces of chocolate wrapped in foil (recyclable, but I forgot to put them in recycling bin)
- Onion skin (compostable, but I didn't compost it)
- Coffee filter
- Pre-packaged lasagna with plastic wrap and soiled cardboard (not recyclable)
- Banana peel (compostable, but I didn't compost it)
- Tea bag (compostable, but didn't compost it)
- Napkins used at restaurant
- Cotton ball
- Toilet paper
- 2 paper towels
What I learned so far:The saddest thing on this list are the items I could have composted or recycled that I just didn't think about. My local farmer's market has a communal compost bin, but I'm afraid they'll be closing up for the fall pretty soon, so I'll need to examine better ways to compost (plus, I hardly ever make it to the farmer's market - Saturdays are for sleeping in!).
I should also note that I chose potatoes wrapped in plastic over the alternative because they were the only mini russet potatoes available and they looked fresher than the unpackaged, full sized variety. I really need to get myself some reusable produce bags, though (I'm going to do that today!).
I just ordered a pour-over coffee kit with a reusable filter with birthday money from my mother-in-law (thanks, Kathy!), so that will take care of my coffee filter usage longterm (I'm excited about finding daily rituals to force me out of bed when the mornings are dark, so I'm also thinking this pour-over switch will help with my mental health through the winter months).
I never use straws anymore, so I avoided that issue altogether when I ate out Sunday night.
- Reusable Cotton Balls (I have pads, but they don't absorb toner very well)
- Reusable Produce Bags
- Composting setup
If you'd like to participate in this challenge with the Ethical Writers Coalition, just make sure to tag us (#ethicalwritersco and @ethicalwriters + #ewczerowastechallenge) on social media!
As I've learned more about the long term environmental consequences of over consumption in the clothing industry - from carbon emissions that contribute to catastrophic climate change to polyester fibers entering our oceans - I've simultaneously started bumping up against similar issues in my everyday consumption of hygiene products, toiletries, and food.
Reducing our consumption in small and big ways matters.
While I suspect I'm preaching to the choir here, I want to reiterate that caring about the environment and "believing" in global warming (i.e. taking the evidence collected and analysis of trained scientists seriously) is not a political issue. It is a "I don't want everything I love about this planet to suffer" issue, and I think we can agree on that. Making personal changes won't change everything - we need to elect leaders who will take renewable energy and other forms of pollution reduction seriously (ahem, and caring about clean water for Indigenous peoples - sign the petition here), but we can start somewhere.
I'm also well aware of the fact that choosing sustainable options is often a matter of class and privilege. For one, having the time and money to discern between products and lifestyle habits isn't always possible, and there are lots of towns and neighborhoods that simply don't have infrastructures that assist in living a more environmentally friendly life. If everything at your grocery store is wrapped in plastic, you can't immediately do anything about it, but perhaps over time you can help influence store and local policies on plastic waste.
That being said...
This fall, in addition to being an aware and active citizen, I'm ready to take the leap to a zero waste lifestyle. It won't come all at once, and I don't anticipate being entirely zero waste for a very long time, but I can continue to make small changes that add up.
Have you reduced waste in other ways? I could use some more suggestions! It's easy to overlook things.
If you found this post useful, perhaps you'd like to:
A couple of years ago, I switched from conventional plastic toothbrushes to those now ubiquitous recycled plastic toothbrushes, which I can pick up at my local Trader Joe's for a few bucks a piece. But, while the company has a pretty good thing going, I've continued to have some reservations about a product made of non-biodegradable plastic (it turns out they have a mail-in recycling program, but I had no idea until I wrote this post, so I've just been tossing the toothbrushes in my regular recycling bin and crossing my fingers that something good would come of it).
Then Mable reached out and offered one of their bamboo toothbrushes for review and I was stoked (can you tell I visited southern California recently?) to get a chance to see what the bamboo experience was like. Bamboo is a sturdy, fast growing plant, which makes it one of the most sustainable materials in the world. Plus it's biodegradable, which makes a huge difference when you consider that "nearly five-billion plastic toothbrushes make their way into the earth and oceans every year." The Mable toothbrush is made from bamboo and new nylon, and the handle is designed so that the brush can stand all by itself on a counter top.
So what did I think?
I have mixed feelings. In terms of sustainability and design, the brush is spot on. I don't have to send in my toothbrush once it's worn out because it will biodegrade naturally over time (though Mable does recommend taking the nylon out of the handle and disposing of it since it's not biodegradable). The silhouette of the product is also really cool. I feel like it makes my bathroom look like a fancier place than it is. And since bamboo is antimicrobial, I feel a little bit less worried about delaying the purchase of a new toothbrush or sealing it in a bag when I travel.
On the downside, the self-standing aspect isn't that useful to me because I have limited counter space. I usually store my toothbrush in a little ceramic cup on one of those relic-of-the-past, built-in toothbrush holders that's been mounted to the wall of my apartment since the 1960s, but I need to store the Mable brush on the windowsill so it won't end up falling into the sink. The bamboo also feels a bit weird against your gums at first, but it loses some of its friction with continued use, so I'm adjusting to it now that I'm a couple weeks in.
Conscious consumerism is often about finding compromises you can live with and, as far as bamboo toothbrushes are concerned, Mable is a good option. They offer a subscription service that mails you a new brush every three months at a reduced rate ($8.00 instead of $10.00) and they're working on broadening their options to include new colors and a range of bristles (currently, they only offer Medium bristles).
If you've got more counter space than me and love good design, I think the Mable Toothbrush may suit you just fine.
Hannah at Life Style Justice reviewed the Mable brush last week. Check out her review here.
This year, members of the Ethical Writers Coalition banded together to share ways we honor the earth every day of the year. We get lots of pitches this time of year from brands who think today might be the only day we care about their nontoxic, zero waste, renewable-energy product, but in reality, the 65+ members of the EWC think about this all the time, so why not share it?
I mean, it's great that the earth has its very own day, but in light of the news last month that 95% of the Great Barrier Reef is now bleached due to rising water temperatures and the reality that Americans throw away 65 pounds of clothing per person per year, I think we can agree that honoring the earth is something we need to be actively pursuing on a daily basis. I hope the below statements inspire you and help you find small ways you can make a difference.
I honor the Earth throughout the year by using cloth menstrual pads instead of disposables and washing them with eco-friendly detergent.
Alden Wicker, EcoCult
I honor the earth every single day, by always packing a reusable water bottle, a reusable handkerchief, and a reusable bag in my purse – they are as important as my wallet and keys!
Emily McLaughlin, Gathering Green
I honor the earth all year, beyond Earth Day, by being mindful of where my food is sourced, joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share, and educating myself on modern farming practices.
Stephanie Villano, My Kind Closet
I honor the earth every day by wearing my clothes more than once to save water with fewer washes, and sourcing my food locally whenever possible - even growing my own produce in the summer and fall.
Danielle Calhoun, Black Sheep Bride
I honor the earth every day by teaching my children the importance of picking up trash and recyclables in on our daily walks around the neighborhood and showing them the value of eating what’s available to them in our own environment (in our case fish from the Gulf of Mexico we catch).
Annie Zhu, Terumah
I honor the earth by buying organic and supporting local farmers.
Catherine Harper, Walking with Cake
I honor the earth every day by teaching my boys to recycle, using what we have instead of always buying something new, and eating locally-grown foods.
Faye Lessler, Sustaining Life
I honor Mama Earth every day of the year by always being mindful of my actions, asking questions before I purchase, and appreciating the beauty of life.
K. Chayne, Kamea World
I honor planet earth every day by using a holistic view of health—one that encompasses the health of our minds, bodies, and our collective environment—to shape my thought processes, habits, and consumer choices.
Jacalyn Beales, Out of Wilderness
I honor our Earth everyday by striving to use products which don’t violate the rights and welfare of our planet’s wildlife.
Hanna Baror Padilla, Sotela.co
I honor the earth every day by creating timeless clothing with eco-friendly fabrics that is made in the US.
Chandra Fox, These Native Goods
I honor the earth every day by appreciating everything she has provided us with and by reducing my family's waste through more conscious shopping practices, when selecting our food and goods -less packaging, less chemicals, less impact.
Nichole Dunst, Green or Die
I honor the Earth by abstaining from products, materials, and practices that rob it of its precious natural resources, by getting out and enjoying the natural beauty that it has to offer, and by practicing compassion towards all of its creatures.
Renee Peters, Model 4 Green Living
I honor the Earth every day by not consuming animal products, walking and taking public transportation, consuming products responsibly and wasting less, and by using my platform as a model to spread my message...The little things that we, as individuals, do everyday all add up to combat climate change. Never underestimate the power of small, daily actions that add up to be a huge reduction in our carbon footprint.
Eleanor Snare, Eleanor Snare
I honour the Earth each day by spending time outside, fully absorbing what’s around me, reducing my impact on the planet and learning to interact with the planet in new ways through planting, growing and nurturing.
Elizabeth Stilwell, The Note Passer
I honor the earth everyday by treading lightly on her resources and inhabitants as I practice minimalism, veganism, and use public transportation as much as possible.
Addie Benson, Old World New
I honor our one and only earth every day by making old things new again, such as thrifted fashion finds, thereby not encouraging the use of our finite precious natural resources.
Sara Weinreb, IMBY
I honor the earth everyday by using plastic-free packaging that is made of recycled and recyclable materials when I ship out new orders of our Made in USA clothing.
Abby Calhoun, A Conscious Consumer
I honor the earth every day by taking in as much as information as I can about her resources, climate change, and our role as consumers in the ‘bigger picture’. I promise to never stop asking questions and having conversations, and will always look for alternative consumption practices to relieve the pressure we are placing on our planet.
Juhea Kim, Peaceful Dumpling
I honor the earth every day by composting and eating vegan. I’ve been vegan for almost 10 years and composting for 5 years. These two activities ground me and make me feel more compassionate, conscientious, and connected to the earth.
Greta Matos, Greta Matos
Quiet moments to watch the sunrise, daily hikes in wild places, conscious and focused appreciation for the abundance of this planet and my connection to it- these are my daily rituals to honor this incredible Earth! I also fold this appreciation and respect into all aspects of my work- whether I am writing and sharing my adventure stories, publishing photos, or consulting on ethical supply chain strategy, I am inspired in my work by the beauty of nature and honor it throughout.
Dominique, Let’s Be Fair
I honor the Earth by loving the people on it and enjoying the beauty of the world with them as grateful stewards.
Kasi Martin, The Peahen
I show my love for the Earth by talking her up! You can eat vegan, live as minimally as possible, and do your homework when it comes to clothes, but when others know the motivation for your lifestyle choices they can also be inspired to action.
Holly Rose, Leotie Lovely
I honour Mama Earth each and every day by being mindful of how my actions and purchases affect her, from my clothing and food to my toothbrush and detergents.
There are a lot of ways to make a change and we're not all going to have the exact same priorities, but the important thing is that we're trying, and that we're working together for a better world.
How do you honor the earth every day?
Tonle is a zero waste, fair trade clothing company based in Cambodia. They're passionate about long term sustainability, so they use remnant materials and cut patterns carefully to ensure that minimal scrap fabric is generated. Scraps are then re-woven into yarn and used again. They're serious about the details, so all packaging is made out of 100% recycled materials, their all natural dyes are non-toxic, and notions (buttons, zippers, etc.) are either made sustainably or purchased from garment factory overstock. It's really incredible! They also provide living wages to their talented team.
Tonle sent me this comfy keang top. It's made of super soft knit cotton and has a boxy, cropped fit for a modern silhouette. I also appreciate the understated rope graphic.
This post is rather timely since ecouttere just made me aware of a Norwegian documentary series featuring fashion bloggers sent to Cambodia to see firsthand where their clothes come from. It's a fascinating peek into Norwegian and Cambodian cultures and the global fast fashion industry. You can watch it here.
Stay tuned for more information on tonle. In the meantime, check them out on facebook, instagram, and twitter.