The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Eco-Fashionistas

Amended Title: The Seven Habits of [What I Imagine to be] Highly Effective Eco-Fashionistas

In my pre-thanksgiving post entitled “Baby Steps: How to Lessen Your Eco Guilt This Holiday Season,” I discussed a few steps we conscious consumers can take that will help us go green bit by bit – or recycled bottle by organic yoga pants.

That was the beginning.

Now, I want to share what I imagine to be seven habits of men & women that have achieved an outstanding level of green in their wardrobes.
Disclaimer: I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it.

1. Don’t be a mindless shopping machine

cartoon_lady_and_shopping_bagsDo a little digging.  If you’re lusting after a particular top, lookup the CSR information for the designer to find out where, how and with what their clothes are made.  If you find out that they’re on the right track – maybe the blouse is made locally or uses eco-friendly material – great! If not, consider spending a few extra minutes perusing the net for one that looks just like it but will be better for mother earth.

Eco Bonus: Check out Fashioning Changes’ “Wear this, not that” tool that shows you  eco-friendly and ethical alternatives to specific pieces from well-known brands.

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  • Whether at home or in the store, use the Good Guide to look up products or scan their tags with the mobile app.  Ask salespeople for manufacturing and environmental information.  Even if they don’t know the answers, they may go seeking them or tell higher-ups that customers want to know (and care)!

  • Use sites that sell many sustainable brands and tell you if they’re eco, fair trade, made in USA, etc.  Some new, Gilt-like daily deal sites are: Loving Eco, JP Selects, and Pure Citizen.  There are also plenty of online boutiques like Kaight, Beklina, Juno & Jove and the newcomer Future:Standard.
  • If you know which brands to look for, you can find them in the mainstream market as well.  Hautelook has held EcoSkin sales twice since October!

2. Go Vintage
Dying to wear leather but not sure where you come down in the debate about leather production?  Easy: get some second-hand.  As we all know, trends repeat, so you may hit gold at your local Salvation Army.  There are always hidden treasures in those places and it’s fun to look for them!  You can of course hit up higher-class vintage establishments as well.

3. Upcycle

Make something old into something new.  Tack on a brooch, cut off a pair of jeans, or get really creative and do some sewing!  One very cool designer uses scraps from high-end clothing lines (and Speedo suits) to create really cool haute couture in her line From Somewhere.

4. Do It Yourself

  • Learn to sew or knit (checkout these awesome knitting kits from Wool and the Gang)
  • Challenge yourself to create new outfits with old clothes; wear something in a way you’ve never worn it before!  (Recently, I took an old black flowy skirt and hiked it all the way up above my waste, paired it with a bright tank top and a belt and people thought it was a dress.)

5. Buy from local/independent designers. 

Etsy is a great place to start, and I’ve come across a good number of sustainable designers that sell their lines on the site.  There are also some great eco-friendly boutiques, so if you like to shop brick&mortar style, find out if there’s one near you (many also have good online operations).

6. Buy less.

Think about what you need.  Of course, you probably don’t technically need most of the clothes you buy, but be conscious of the amount you consume and consider investing in a few high-quality timeless pieces rather than a load of crap (I am so very guilty of load-of-crap shopping but am trying – somewhat successfully – to quit).

Practice Slow Fashion. 

7. Green more than just your wardrobe. 

My next stop: cosmetics!  I know that there are a lot of crazy chemicals in the stuff I currently put on my face that are less than healthy.  Natural alternatives can be pricey, but at the rate I go through makeup (i.e. slowly) they will probably be worth the investment. I already made all-natural body scrubs! (See video below)

Got other eco tactics to share? Comment away!

The Pro’s & Con’s of TOMS Shoes (and another option)

I got a pair of TOMS shoes in the mail last week (thanks Mom).  They’re super comfortable, and I got them in this snazzy gold herringbone pattern: toms herringbone

I know there are issues with give-away philanthropy, so I did a little digging to see how sustainable TOMS Shoes really are.  Putting aside TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie‘s accidental speech to the anti-gay Christian group Focus on the Family in June, there are several fundamental problems with the way TOMS gives back.

Giveaways Don’t Solve the Problem

As Kelsey Timmerman, author of Where Am I Wearing, reminds us, this is a classic case of giving someone a fish vs. teaching him/her how to fish. Giving children shoes is all very well and good, but does nothing to address the root causes of the poverty that makes them shoeless in the first place.  In fact, Continue reading

Made in Nicaragua

As I write this, sitting on the beach in Nicaragua, it is easy to ignore everything but the crashing waves and pink sunset clouds.  But just miles away in the capital city of Managua, there is rampant poverty, unemployment, illness and any manner of problems typical of the third world.  Many of this country’s troubles stem from colonialism, political turmoil and natural disasters – most notably the earthquake that destroyed Managua in 1972 .  Because my subject is sustainable fashion, however, I decided to look into the ways the global garment industry has affected Nicaraguans.

My first [electronic] visit was to the now-defunct cotton fields. Cotton only came to Nicaragua in the 1950s with Continue reading

Mmmmmm that smells…..sustainable

Let’s talk perfume.  I have to admit that I love my current scent (Armani Agua di Gioia) to death.  When I looked it up on the Good Guide here is what I found:

-OK marks on the environment (7.2) and society (6.2)

The Guide even adds that the company is among the top/best 15% in its database because of its social policies and practices.  That’s great! Unfortunately it got less OK marks on health (4.0) because of a chemical called Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) that is suspected of causing  immunotoxicity, respiratory toxicity, and skin or sense organ toxicity.

That’s a bit more potential toxicity than I’m comfortable with, so I checked out some natural scents. Continue reading

In Sustainable Fashion, is it the thought that counts?

Is it enough that fashion designers have the intention of being sustainable?  Well, no.  But does it make a difference?  Is it a step in the right direction?  Usually.

There are a lot of factors to consider when making clothing, and a lot of steps along the way for things to go wrong.  Designers have to keep track of the environmental and human costs of their products from harvesting the cotton or producing the synthetic to manufacturing, shipping and retail.  Inevitably, trade-offs must be made.  Organic fabrics can still be sewn together by exploited workers Continue reading