inclusivity or bust: why sustainable fashion needs to do more than donate to counter racial injustice

If sustainability had a relationship status, it would read “It’s complicated”. This is because, like many social and political movements, sustainability is anything but linear. It’s robust, complex, and hugely interconnected. When you take a good look, you’re able to see sustainability is not just about using metal straws and reducing waste. To be truly effective, sustainability also must take into account social & economic equality, human rights, accessibility, feminism, and so many more critical elements. So to try to oversimplify sustainability by greenwashing or for the purposes of cutting costs is to undermine all its other essential elements. 

The idea for this blog post actually started with me wanting to share some of my favorite ethical brands. But, after deep-diving into their Linkedin pages and social media, I walked away feeling…discouraged. In response to the current social unrest, many ethical brands have made donations and apologized for their roles in whitewashing the sustainability movement. On the surface, this is good. It’s important for brands to take accountability and for consumers to understand that meaningful change takes time. But, after seeing these brands’ current teams—almost all were completely or majority-white—as well as other glaring holes in their sustainability frameworks, I’m thinking—how can sustainable fashion be accessible & representative when the brands within the industry are currently anything but? 

The bottom line—donating isn’t enough. It’s a good thing to do but it’s not a means to an end in and of itself. So, what do ethical brands need to be doing to create lasting and meaningful change inside and outside of their organizations? Below are the thoughts I have. All require patience from customers, employees, community, and may at first be uncomfortable or even feel counterproductive. But with time, taking the following steps will set a higher standard in the fashion industry and move brands closer towards a truly ethical & sustainable future. 

THOUGHTFUL HIRING   

One of the best ways to judge whether a company is dedicated to a sustainable future is to look at its employees. Is the brand’s team representative of both the professional experience and diverse perspectives necessary to make educated & inclusive business decisions? In order to be profitable and sustainable, brands need a mix of social and business thinkers. The socially-minded thinkers are people equipped to handle community aspects of a brand. These individuals are able to do everything from communicating a brand’s sustainability model to responding to negative social media attention. On the other side, you have business thinkers. These people are responsible for the structure and development of a brand. Because of which, this group tends to be more focused on operations, sourcing, and design processes. 

So why do we need both groups? Let’s look at Reformation for an example. It’s very clear by both their response to accusations of racism and the testimony of Black employees that the brand’s internal structure was in total imbalance. Yes, they may tout sustainable materials and gorgeous designs—the job of business thinkers—but while that part of their business has thrived, their internal and external communities have suffered greatly. 

Although there’s no recipe for a perfect business model, having a representative and professionally diverse team sets ethical brands up to be responsive to business needs and social environments. Brands that embrace differing opinions and encourage critical thought can anticipate their blindspots before someone else does. Whatsmore, with a majority of young consumers feeling, “a strong affiliation to retailers that subscribe to a larger purpose” companies that demonstrate an authentic dedication to social and environmental sustainability stand to win big with their audiences. 

INTENTIONAL SOURCING 

Whether a brand designs and produces its own products or outsources to vendors, social sustainability should be part of both processes. A recent Vogue article followed Renewal Workshop and Parsons design students as they met the suppliers behind some popular ethical brands. The article exposed how rare—yet beneficial—close working relationships between brands and their suppliers are. On the part of suppliers, being able to closely communicate with a brand usually means better wages and safer working conditions. And for the brands, this type of relationship allows for more accurate timelines and less opportunity for error. The article found that taking the time to visit and get to know suppliers can help ethical brands choose “mutually respectful partnership(s)” that align with sustainability goals. More relevantly, this atypical proximity can also help prevent situations as we’ve seen during the global pandemic, where brands pull out of their contracts, leaving suppliers to pick up the bill. 

Brands that create their own products and partner with outside vendors, such as Lisa Says Gah, also have a role to play. These brands, now more than ever, need to welcome POC and Black-owned comapnies to the industry and act as their business allies. There’s no lack of talent out there—Selva Negra, Míe, and AAKS are just a few of the brands that come to mind—and it’s the responsibility of larger ethical brands to practice what they preach on social media.

REFORM SUSTAINABILITY GUIDELINES 

Good on You. BCorp Certified. Fairtrade. Even if you don’t work in sustainable fashion, you’ve probably heard of at least one of these certification organizations. At a glance, the industry standardizations these organizations create are great. They give brands a simple way to distinguish themselves from fast fashion and benefit financially from their missions. But like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, simplification can actually prove very harmful in the context of sustainability. Searching for words like “diversity” and “inclusive” on a few of these organizations’ pages generated slim to no results, which tells us that certifications are missing critical aspects of sustainability. After seeing these sobering gaps for myself, it wasn’t hard to understand why sustainable fashion is currently a mostly white and wealthy community. 

If ethical brands are going to change, they’ll need external guidance. Perhaps this means bringing in third-party consultants for a temporary solution. But long term, the guidelines of sustainability and what is expected from “ethical” brands needs to change. In order for brands to be better, certification groups will first have to make their teams representative enough to prevent blind spots and constantly be reevaluating their processes to make their guidelines more holistic.  

INCLUSIVE SIZING 

Well, this could be its own article, so I’ll try to keep it brief. Here’s what you need to know: 67% of US women are a size 14 or higher. Yet most fashion brands—ethical or not—stop their sizing at an XL or size 12. This shortsightedness is not only discriminatory, it’s also downright dumb. The “Plus” size market is valued at $20.4 billion and counting. And yet, brands still refuse to respond, sighting added costs and design challenges. Meanwhile, brands that have started to extend their sizing, such as Reformation, treat the category like an afterthought, introducing only limited styles and restocking them far less often than smaller sizes. As if the high price of ethical fashion wasn’t enough, people who fall into that extended size category have quite literally been pushed out of the sustainable fashion movement.

So what can brands do? A year or so ago, body positive blogger, Marielle Elizabeth, created a Size Inclusive Survey for brands to use to better understand the desire for ethical, size-inclusive fashion. Brands can use these kinds of guides to better understand the limitations of their current sizing. Or they can collect their own data and use it to expand sizing in a personalized and profitable way. Brands can also look into changing their design processes to make garments easier to alter or restructure their business model to be accommodating to size changes, like Universal Standard has done. Internally too, companies can be more intentional about selecting job candidates who express a first-hand understanding of size and other types of physical exclusions. 

PAID INTERNSHIPS & APPRENTICESHIPS 

No one should be expected to work for free. No one. This whole “pay your dues” mentality that generations still hang their hats on is outdated and out of touch with reality. As someone who interned for free twice in college, I can tell you I could not have done it without the financial support of my parents. And that privilege does not make me any more qualified than someone who cannot afford to make that same decision. 

Compensating interns and apprentices is a great way to open an ethical brand up to students or individuals who may not have even explored the position if it were unpaid. Not only does compensating attract a larger candidate pool, but it also has the potential to bring in talent that brands would otherwise have to spend time and money pursuing. 

These are just a few of my thoughts—I know, I have a lot of them. But I’m interested to know what your reactions are. What areas do you think ethical brands are falling short in? Do you think it’s reasonable to expect these types of changes from even very small ethical brands? Let me know in the comments.  

a low-waste moving guide

‘Tis the season for Allston Christmas, double parking, and bets about whether or not your couch will fit up a very narrow stairwell. Yep, you guessed it, it’s moving day. 

Even with a global pandemic going on, people are still on the go. Whether you’re moving across the world, the country, or—like me—just to a different neighborhood, the following tips will help you reduce some of the waste & clutter that can come with one of life’s most unavoidable transitions. 

Plan ahead! 

Alright my procrastinators, unless you enjoy panic, sweat, and heavy objects, its time to get your butt into gear! Especially if you’re upcoming move is going to require national or international travel, proactive planning can be the difference between a move with minimal hiccups and an in-motion disaster. Now is the time to think about what you really want to bring with you to your new place, how you are getting there, and what you’ll need to move efficiently and with minimal waste.

Reuse. Reuse. Reuse. 

There is already enough cardboard out there—no need to create more! Instead of purchasing boxes, start saving any delivery packaging from online orders and ask your friends to do the same. If that’s still not enough, reach out to managers at local grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurants to ask them to save out any leftover boxes. More than likely they’ll be happy for you to take them off their hands. 

Find your stuff a second-home 

What better opportunity to clean out and start fresh than a move? Just because you find that neon waffle maker your mom gave you offensive doesn’t mean someone else can’t appreciate it. Send out a mass text with photos or a list of things you’re getting rid of to every contact on your phone. Or, if you’ve got a decent social media following, maybe you sell items via your story and let your followers duke it out. Finally, you can also use resale apps like Merchari or Poshmark to sell your unused things for cold hard (virtual) cash, but just keep in mind this way may take longer. 

Donate (almost) anything you don’t want 

Nearly everything that doesn’t sell or get dibbed by a friend should be donated. But before you go, check your donation centers’ policies on items they accept and make sure they’re a good fit for your donations. Places like Savers, for example, will take things like used underwear (they won’t sell them, don’t worry) & socks and have great recycling programs in place. If you have questions about what a center accepts—ask. Otherwise, any unusable or unfit items you bring to donate will likely create challenges for donation center employees and potentially be trashed. 

Check your local curb-side rules

In the current climate, there may be items you can’t get rid of, for example, mattresses. But don’t just put those sad springs out on the street. Look into any low-cost or free pickup service that can extend your item’s lifespan through donation or repurposing. 

Rent right 

Unless you’re an ultra-minimalist (props!), you’re gonna need at least a minivan to move. For most people, this will mean renting a vehicle. When booking your moving van or truck, be sure to pick an option that’s just what you need. Go any bigger and it’s just like boiling a full kettle of tea when you only want a cup. It’s a waste of money, stress, gas, and space. If you don’t know how big a rented vehicle is, check Youtube. There are plenty of videos out there showing how many mattresses can fit in a Uhaul and more practical information to help you make the right choice. 

Anything, just not plastic

If you go out and buy packing peanuts, my heart will break. Tissue paper, towels, clothing—there are so many things you can use to pad breakables that won’t cause waste or add to your load. Reuse any plastic wrapping you get from online orders or purchase a natural paper wrap, if needed. 

Borrow, don’t buy

If you don’t have packing tape, scissors, tools, boxes, etc., I guarantee one of your friends does. Proactively reach out to contacts to see if they have items you need in order to make the move. Consider asking them to save any delivery packaging they receive or even if you can borrow their car for moving day. After all, that’s what friends are for.

Offset your flight

If you’re flying to your new home, consider offsetting the impact of your travel by using a site like My Climate or another carbon emissions calculator. After realizing your impact, you can offset by donating to an environmental organization or planting your own garden/trees. 

Leave no carrot behind

Eat your food, people! Plan out groceries and meals leading up to your move to make sure you’ll have enough to eat without unintentionally being wasteful. Leave a few utensils and pots out so you have cookery available to you even in the days leading up to the move. 

You’re ready to go! For everyone who is moving this summer and fall, I wish you all the best! Remember to eat protein the morning of the move, wear your mask always, and stay cool. 

low-waste deoderant guide

Phew, I stink, I think to myself as my arms fly back up in the air, modeling the pilates instructor’s movements, thank god this is a virtual class.

BO. We all have it—some of us worse than others. And while it’s totally natural to work up a sweat and stench, I think we can all agree finding a great deodorant is something that stands to benefit us all. With summer upon us, now is the perfect time to re-evaluate your deodorant and find a product that loves your pits & the planet.

The deodorant and antiperspirant options at my local CVS span a whole five feet of shelf. You’ve got your sprays, sticks, gels, etc. And yet, even with all the different colors, branded packaging, and catchy buzzwords, these products aren’t all that different from one another. Major manufacturers rely on many of the same types of ingredients, using clever marketing to differentiate from others. Deodorants, intended to cover up our natural odors, often contain phthalates (perfumes & scents) and parabens (preservatives), substances known to mess with the body’s natural hormone levels. And aluminum, commonly found in antiperspirants that stop the body from producing sweat, have shown potential links to Alzheimer’s Disease and Breast Cancer.  

On top of their health risks, conventional deodorants and antiperspirants use a huge amount of plastic to produce. Although most deodorants and antiperspirants are recyclable, they often “contain more than one type of plastic”. This means in order to be properly recycled, you’ll need to take apart your old container, note the different recycling types by their numbers, and check with your local recycling services to see if they’re accepted. If they’re not, all that plastic goes to landfill. 

Now, it’s not surprise that zero-waste and chemical-free options have not necessarily reached the Walgreens of the world. In fact, with few exceptions, these brands rarely advertised on streaming platforms and unless you have some sustainably savvy friends, you probably won’t cross their websites or social media. But if you are able to pay a little more and willing to experiment with a new deoderant, here are some plastic-alternatives worth exploring:  

PAPER – $14 @ Meow Meow Tweet

My favorite deodorant option, Meow Meow Tweet’s plastic-free deodorant stick is a pretty natural swap for most users. Their deodorant stick features hard, cardboard wrapping around a soft, but solid, deodorant stick. When you’re done, just recycle the packaging and toss any product residue. My only word of caution with this stick comes at the end of its life. I spent weeks using up the little leftover nub of deodorant that refused to stay in its container. I didn’t love using my hand to apply the product but it was a minor hiccup in an overall flawless product. Nowadays, Meow Meow Tweet is so popular, you can find this brand at Target, Ulta, as well as your local health food stores.

CREAM – $14 @ Sustainyoself

Don’t mind touching your pits? Deodorant cream could be your perfect mate. Deodorant cream tends to have a frosting-like consistency that applies just like thick body lotion. As a product, deodorant cream is very similar to a solid stick. However, in my personal use, I noticed cream tends to be more prone to melting and a little bit of a mess. This particular cream from Sustainyoself is really nice smelling and offers pretty good all-day smell control—although I will say I’ve found sticks to be a little more effective. 

REFILLABLE – $12 @ byHumankind

If you’re tentative to make the switch to a paper or cream deodorant, this product from byHumankind could be your gateway drug. Featuring hard, plastic packaging, byHumankind’s deodorant solution is very similar to a generic tube. But instead of tossing that plastic after the deoderant is gone, byHumankind allows you to order a replacement stick that you plop right where the old tube was. Whether you opt for their fresh Eauclytis or warm Rosemary Mint, this low-waste product is a step in the right direction. 

DIY – ‘FREE’ 

With all this extra time at home, maybe you want to dive in and make your own DIY deodorant? More power to ya! The blog Simple Green Smoothies uses four ingredients—essential oils, baking soda, arrowroot, and coconut oil—to make their five-star recipe. You can store your DIY mixture in an old lotion container or even spare Tupperware. Making your own product also allows you to tailor your deodorant if you have allergies or a strong preference regarding scent. 

ethical summer shopping guide ft. Black and POC owned brands

Summer is the season of dresses, sandals, and surf-ready suits. And retailers loooove to take advantage of your desire to hit the beach or bar in new garments. Just like advertisers market back-to-school as a chance for reinvention and new beginnings, come summer, adults are hit with the same kind of self-improvement rhetoric. Not only is this all a ploy to get you to buy, its also another opportunity for brands to profit off of our own insecurities. If you really think about it, the whole notion of “bikini bodies” and tan lines are ideas that only exist through the belief that we are not good enough as is, that the other nine months of the year, we’re just ‘ok’. And the more we buy into that wholly unsustainable perception of self, the further we reinforce it. 

So this summer, rather than filling your drawers with cheap swimsuits and sling-backs, I suggest you make purchases that enhance your everyday wardrobe and self-image. In the spirit of pride and self-love, the pieces I am sharing below are entirely sourced from Black and POC founded slow fashion brands. While I have tried to pick out some of the ‘cheaper’ items, many of these garnmets are what I would consider ‘investment pieces’. While you browse, I urge you to look beyond the price tags and acknowledge the social and environmental impact your dollar can have when you buy intentionally from a brand that embodies your values. If it’s financially feasible, supporting Black and POC owned clothing companies is a very tangible way to refuse fast fashion and redistribute the wealth within this industry. 

Sueno Jumpsuit by Selva Negra 

Un sueno indeed. I’m in love with this jumpsuit. Its delicate ruffles and perfectly oversized style would be ideal for a rooftop bar—but equally as welcome in any WFH situation. The jumpsuit is made of 100% linen (a natural fiber) and deadstock fabric (material that would otherwise have been thrown away). 

Selva Negra is a 100% POC owned and operated brand. The founders, Kristen Gonzalez and Sam Romero, studied fashion in NYC before going on to co-found their brand. Although their website doesn’t offer detailed information regarding their sourcing and manufacturing processes, they do use mostly natural fibers and recycle fabrics that would otherwise have been disposed of. The company has also committed to offering more size-inclusive garments, limitsing the use of plastic in their offices, and claims to support organizations like Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and the Wildlife Conservation. 

Tencel Bralette by Proclaim 

‘Nude’ is not one color, okay? Got it? Good. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk Proclaim. If you’re like me, you’re always on the search for a better bra. One that fits every curve and line and makes you feel sexy all at the same time. Proclaim was started by Shobha Philips after a lifetime of having her skin color be ignored by the lingerie industry. In response, Shobha created her inclusively nude line of undergarments and a brand that embraces real women’s forms.  

This bralette, like all of Proclaim’s products, is made mostly from Tencel, a soft, naturally derived fiber created from wood pulp. I love the deep V cut of this bralette and can see it fitting perfectly under any of my summer camisoles. Yes, it’s a true basic but if you’re committed to a sustainable lifestyle and/or capsule wardrobe, a piece like this can offer a great deal of versatility and years of wear. 

California Love Long Sleeve Cotton T-shirt by Adele 

I love a good t-shirt. Tuck it. Knot it. Rock it. All about it. In my opinion, a good t-shirt is always worth the investment because it can be worn in sun, snow, rain, and sand. When you invest in a good staple, like a t-shirt, you’re more likely to circulate it through your weekly wardrobe, rather than retiring it every season for a new one.

Adele was started by its founder and namesake, Adele Jackson. Dedicated to sustainability, art, and “conscious awakening” Adele infuses all her work with a thoughtfulness you’d be hard-pressed to find at any fast-fashion brand. What’s more, 10% of all Adele’s profits are donated to organizations, such as My Friend’s Place, and Adele is committed to using materials and manufacturers that pose the least amount of negative impact to the earth.  

Tia Basket by AAKS 

I have yet to meet a woven bag I’m not instantly obsessed with. And no one does woven bags better than AAKS.

The brand was founded by Akosua Afriyie-Kumi with the goal of sharing the beautiful weaves and vibrant colors of Ghana’s longstanding artisan communities. Made from a combination of leather and palm, each bag is ethically produced and designed to last.

I love this bag, especially for its unique shape and ombre’d color treatment. The handle detailing is absolutely adorable and I know for a fact it can fit anything you’d ever need to summer in style. 

Llamoye Mule by Shekudo 

Mules, mules, mules—I will not tire of them. Crafted from cotton, goatskin, and wood, these babies are head-turners made to be showered with compliments. As for pairings, your options are wide open. I’d suggest a white flare pant or silky floor-length skirt to bring out the best in these shoes. But honestly, it’s hard to do wrong by such a versatile pair of mules. 

All of Shekudo’s shoes are handmade in Nigeria under the careful creative direction of founder, Akudo Iheakanwa. The company makes an effort to use only locally sourced materials in its products and minimizes textile waste by making each product slightly different from others, rather than identical copies. 

Contour One Piece by JADE Swim 

Beach day, anyone? Over the years, I found nothing is more empowering than finding a bathing suit that really fits you. The perfect color. A great design. But in a world of $5 bikinis, these elements can be hard to come by. That’s why I’m so excited by this JADE suit. A great one-piece, this bathing suit features sexy exposure, not to mention a range of awesome colors to choose from. Although their sizing leaves something to be desired (they only go up to an XL) JADE’s suits are highly versatile—made for a swim, yoga class, or even to be worn as a body suit on a night out. Their creator, Brittany Kozerski, comes from a fashion styling background and put a great deal of thought into the design of her suits. On top of their versatility, the suits use “shape retention technology” to sculpt the body while built-in sun protection helps maintain color, wear after wear.  

Sicily Dress by Míe

One limb in this dress and I could die a happy woman. Look at the bow along the shoulder blades. The square neck. The open back. This dress is D-I-V-I-N-E! 

Míe is a company wholly dedicated to slow and more sustainable fashion. The company is based out of Lagos, Nigeria—aka Africa’s fashion capital. Their entire resort line, while pricey, is made from natural materials and biodegradable fibers. The designs for this season feature billowing sleeves, sleek cuts, and richly dyed fabrics. Although I couldn’t personally find any information on the company’s founder, their ‘About’ page does note a commitment to continually revising their processes for the benefit of the earth and their customers. 

It’s about time we talked vintage! You can find vintage Levis on almost every secondhand online marketplace. But when you buy vintage denim from Jane Dottie, your dollar goes even further. 

Tatyana Zhane started Jane Dottie only a year ago. As the daughter of a “extremely hard working single mother”, Tatyana not only started her business with a goal of empowering consumers through the secondhand market, she’s also made lifting up other women an essential part of her business model. Jane Dottie donates a portion of every sale to organizations that support women in need and allows shoppers to leave their own suggestions for worthy causes to donate. 

inclusive sustainability for content creators

I want to start this article by saying that I am a white, middle-class, cis female. I will never be able to understand the challenges, brutality, and barriers faced by Black and POC individuals. But if the mission of this blog is to create an approachable space within sustainability, I need to intentionally create room for those who have been systematically excluded from the movement. This means acknowledging the problematic and elitist structure of sustainability while putting thought into how I can make sustainability more accessible for all. 

Without representation within this community—racial, size, gender, or otherwise—sustainability will only be able to progress so far. We’ve seen it happen in the feminist movement and within political parties. When one privileged group, no matter what their intentions, speaks for those beyond themselves, invaluable perspectives are lost and people are left behind.

So, how and where do we start as creators? I’m not sure there’s one “right” answer. But below are the strategies I believe can be used to accept our mistakes while putting those learnings into action to welcome the perspectives sustainability needs to be a truly inclusive movement. 

Promote sustainable content created by non-white influencers  

If you have an IG you use primarily for business, you know the value of engaging and sharing content. By supporting sustainability-oriented accounts made by Black and POC creators, you’re using the algorithm to expose your followers to perspectives they may relate to or be completely unaware of. It’s not the job of POC individuals to educate white people. But in my opinion, it is the job of those with the inherent privilege to listen to and support underrepresented groups within this community. This could look like IG takeovers, IG Live chats, or weekly content sharing the work of non-white people in the sustainability space. The important element in all these acts is to let the content speak for itself. You don’t always need to throw in your own commentary over a story or in a conversation. Know when adding your own thoughts may be taking away from someone else’s voice instead of amplifying it and be thoughtful in how you share these perspectives. 

Don’t make assumptions 

Composting is so easy! Being vegan is something everyone can do. Sustainability is your responsibility. I’ve said some of these things. At the time, they felt like a fair declaration. But after watching Teanna Empower’s video on elitism in the sustainability & zero-waste movements, I know better. Assumptions like these may seem harmless, but when you take a closer look, you’ll see they’re actually a great example of why the sustainability movement is overwhelmingly white and middle class. 

Assumptions of any kind exacerbate barriers people with privilege can’t often see. If you haven’t experienced a food desert, you don’t know just how hard it can be to find even basic necessities nearby. If you don’t live meal-to-meal, don’t assume that buying a $32 stainless steel water bottle is a realistic choice for everyone. Learn to think broadly and lead with facts. Percentages. Statistical trends. Any and all solid evidence. From there, you’ll be more likely to draw justified opinions instead of unfounded assumptions. 

Stay away from “should”

‘Should’ is a nasty little word. I learned from my therapist that when you use the word ‘should’, you put unwarranted pressure on yourself and others. In sustainability, the word is yet another tool used to separate the “haves” from the “have nots”. And when applied to groups that have been excluded from the sustainability movement, ‘should’ basically says, “Pull yourself up by your bootstrings,” when many people don’t have boots, strings—or even feet (metaphorically speaking).

When writing or speaking, choose your language wisely and steer clear of opportunities to reiterate someone’s ‘otherness’. Rather, find different ways to illuminate the options available versus creating a noninclusive script you assume everyone can follow. 

Give credit where it’s is due

If you wouldn’t plagiarize, why would you take credit for an idea or technique that isn’t yours? Sustainability is an idea that started with indigenous peoples. Period. When you depend on the earth for your food, shelter, and stability, it’s only natural that you develop a deep understanding and appreciation for how climates, waterways, and seasons work. Indigenous traditions labeled “primitive” by colonizers were in fact what held the world in balance and prevented many of the natural and manmade disasters that impact all of us today. 

While we all have a right to participate in sustainability, we do not have a right to take credit for something that is not truly our own. When creating, be sure to cite sources, do interviews, and make sure your content is a reflection of the rich backgrounds and origins within this community.

Offer free events & make essential content accessible to all 

There are ways to open up your platform to more people, both now during the global pandemic as well as afterwards. Start by making all your essential content free. If you have brand guides or heavily researched studies, make that information available to anyone and everyone. Because not everyone has access to the Internet, it’s also helpful to think beyond the screen to postings in public spaces, free in-person events, and phone services. Try to meet people where they are and make yourself available as a resource during every stage of their sustainability journey. 

Open yourself up to feedback 

Again, when it comes to systemic racism, people of color don’t owe white folks education or feedback. But if you can find ways to make yourself available without being presumptive, your platform will be more inclusive for it. You could create a survey and send it out to your blog contact list. Instagram polls are another great way for people to pipe in on their own accord and react to results. Regardless of how you go about it, remember that even though you may hear things that don’t make you feel good in the moment, having that honest feedback and revising yourself accordingly will help make you a greater ally.

Go beyond your platform  

Fundraise. Rally. Protest. Get up and put your words and money where your post is. Showing up in person says that you acknowledge the impact of systemic racism, even if those problems don’t affect you personally. Whether you see it clearly or not, racism connects many social issues. The killing of innocent Black men. Epicenters of poverty. Lack of representation in the workplace. Wage gaps. Sexual exploitation. Food deserts & insecurity. Child labor. The list goes on. Black and POC peoples did not create any of these issues. White people did. Therefore, I and my fellow white creators must play an active and consistent role in the solution going forward. 

how to shop second-hand online

Let’s talk shop. 

So you miss the thrift store and want to try second-hand shopping online? Great, there’s an almost unlimited market just waiting for you to dive in. But with so many options right at your fingertips, the shopping process can sometimes feel overwhelming. Unlike physical stores, online thrift stores don’t have a clear beginning and end, making it easy to miss out on hidden gems.

The following tips & tricks are designed to help you easily navigate the digital second-hand market and find more opportunities to incorporate used clothing into your wardrobe. 

WHERE TO SHOP SECOND-HAND ONLINE

First, you need to know where to look. After getting acquainted with the offerings and format of each of the following apps, you’ll be able to decide where to focus your time and monaaay.

What you’ll find: Each app has its own niche. Some offer more mainstream brands, others luxury or streetwear. Get to know each app’s “vibe” and use those observations to avoid information-overload. 

Consignment vs. direct-to-seller: Consignment means the items for sale have gone through quality control & authentication. In direct-to-seller, the seller lists and manages their items independently. This process will affect the cost of what you’re buying. Consignment typically is more expensive because it’s been vetted by a third party.  

Buy, Barter, or Trade: Apps sell their products in different ways. Bartering usually gives you a better price than buying outright. And if you decide to sell on any of these apps, trading with another seller could get you a mutually beneficial deal. 

Restocks: Second-hand stores don’t follow typical inventory. That makes striking while the iron’s hot and checking back regularly critical to finding the items you’re after. 

Poshmark – The People Pleaser 

  • What you’ll find: Caters to major brands like Madewell, Everlane, Zara as well as some sustainable brands, like Eileen Fisher and Girlfriend Collective 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Direct-to-seller 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Barter & Trade 
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet  
  • Wise words: Be cautious when buying designer brands. Unless you spend above $500, items aren’t authenticated by the app. Also, note that ‘boutiques’ are not always second-hand, so do your research before buying!

Depop – The Rebel with a Cause 

  • What you’ll find: Streetwear brands & vintage
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Direct-to-seller 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy, Trade & Barter
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet  
  • Wise words: Going in with some knowledge of obscure brands will help you navigate the app 

ThredUp – The Cool Mom 

  • What you’ll find: Popular mid-range brands 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Consignment 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet  
  • Wise words: Great for basics, but not as many interesting statement pieces 

Etsy – The Girl Who Doesn’t Wear Labels 

  • What you’ll find: Eclectic styles, hand-made clothing & vintage 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Direct-to-seller  
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy
  • Restock Waitlist: Varies by seller 
  • Wise words: Try finding sellers you like & following them to narrow down your options

Curtsy – The IT Girl 

  • What you’ll find: Trendy styles & popular brands 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Direct-to-seller  
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy & Barter 
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet  
  • Wise words: Not as many high-quality/long-lasting brands available 

The Real Real – The Luxe Lady 

  • What you’ll find: Authenticated luxury & designer brands 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Consignment 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy
  • Restock Waitlist: Yes! If an item has sold, you can sign up to be notified when it’s restocked 
  • Wise words: Pricey compare to other second-hand sites 

Lovanie – The Sustainable Sister 

  • What you’ll find: Sustainable brands 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Consignment 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet
  • Wise words: The site is new & in Beta testing 

HOW TO SHOP SECOND-HAND ONLINE

Unless you have incredible patience, apps are not necessarily a great place to browse. To find the right pieces, try going in with a gameplan. This will prevent you from buying things you don’t need and help you cut through the clutter. 

Brands & styles 

Go through your closet. What brands do you have the most of? Which fit you best? What styles do you wear most often? Many of these apps do not accept returns unless the item you bought is damaged. That makes it all the more important to feel confident that what you’re getting will work for you.  

Want list 

If you follow brands on IG or email, you probably have a sense of what they’re selling each season. When you spot a new item you like, copy & paste the name into any of the app(s) to see if you can find it gently used & nicely priced. You’d be surprised just how often you can find what you’re looking for. 

Search Terms 

Know the correct names of styles by doing some research beforehand and you’ll be able to weed through options more quickly. 

Size(s) 

Each of the apps lets you create a size range. To allow for some wiggle room, I recommend you set this feature to your size, slightly smaller, and slightly larger. 

Colors 

Pictures can distort colors. Always ask questions or, better yet, try to find the item on its original brand website for a more accurate portrayal. 

Read the Reviews

If a listed item is still available on its original brand’s website, read the reviews before buying. The site will have more specifics on fit and quality to help you make a better informed purchase. 

Saved Searches & Waitlists 

Some apps let you save your searches. If you’re consistently on the lookout for something, using these in-app features can save time and ensure you’re first to know if an item you want is available. 

KEYS TO SECOND-HAND SUCCESS 

Persistence 

Listings can happen at any time, so if you really want something, check in regularly.  

Know an item’s true value 

Just like you’d negotiate your salary, know what you’re buying and how much it’s really worth. What was its original price? Does it have signs of wear? How much are similar items being sold for? Factor all this in to know you’re getting a fair price. 

Shop them all 

The more apps you use, the more likely you are to know what’s available, where to get the best deal, and which app you have the most success on. 

Know your dupes

Be cautious when buying designer brands direct-from-seller. There are tons of videos out there on how to spot luxury dupes that can help you do this. If you’re looking for a fool-proof purchase, remember The Real Real and ThredUp do authenticate and perform quality checks. 

Start on Google 

If you know the name of the item you’re looking for, try searching “Item name Used” into Google’s Shopping tab. From there, you can go directly to the apps selling that specific product. 

Avoid cheap brands 

Most second-hand clothing is preloved. That makes cheap, used pieces even more likely to be pilled or damaged by the time you get them. Unless it’s a style or color you’re obsessed with, I’d say leave cheap brands in the cart. 

Like & Favorite

It’s hard to remember everything you see when browsing. Use in-app saving features to your favor. Depending on the store, you’ll be notified about sales, price drops, and if something sells.  

Okay, you’re officially ready to shop! Give these tips a shot and let me know which work best for you! 

6 simple and zero-waste swaps for your bathroom

Before I jump into the article, I want to be sure to address the matter of affordability. After all, “affordable” is a very loaded term and it means vastly different things to different people. 

Yes, truly sustainable products do cost more than their generic alternatives. And unfortunately, this does negatively impact their accessibility. The promising news is that as more people already able to afford these products make the switch, over time, costs will decrease. It’s for sure not an immediate solution, but it does offer some hope for greater access down the road. 

Where I am at in life, it is financially feasible for me to make sustainability a priority. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some initial sticker shock as I started exploring these zero-waste swaps. Even if you’re able to make sustainable switches, letting go of comfortable and convenient habits is hard. So to help, here’s the logic I used to see these products not just as purchases, but as investments in a more sustainable future. 

Higher quality ingredients – Chemical-free and biodegradable products are naturally derived and therefore better for your body and the earth 

Longevity – Many sustainable products are concentrated or purer, requiring less volume per use 

Livable wages & working conditions – More money is cycled back to the people who grow and produce these products, so they can achieve a higher quality of life 

If you’ve been hoping to switch over to a more sustainable or plastic-free bathroom routine but haven’t known where to start, this guide will help you identify which products can work for your lifestyle and budget. For every product, I’ve broken down the costs and ease of switch to help make your sustainable transition a smooth one.  

1. Zero Waste Lip Balm | Ease of switch: 9/10

Currently, I’m using a nice mint stick from Twinkle Apothecary, a woman-founded, small business based in Oklahoma. The large stick, if I recall correctly, was $12 and has lasted me more than a year. 

Mint lip balm in zero-waste, compostable packaging

The only challenge I encountered when switching to a plastic-free lip balm was adjusting to the more natural formula. As a devout Burts user, I found my lips more dry than usual at the start, but they’ve since adapted and feel very healthy. 

Buy it here: 

Twinkle Apothecary $6 

Splashe $7.99  

Zero Waste Store $12.99 

Boston General Store $14.00 

2. Stainless Steel Razor | Ease of Switch 6/10 

If you’re willing to break from your plastic pal, stainless steel razors make for a great zero-waste swap. Unlike safety razors you find at drug stores or from popular brands like Billie, the steel versions feature two blades that can be replaced an infinite number of times. 

My favorite Albatross, zero-waste razor

I purchased my three-piece Albatross razor from Package Free a year ago, and although we had a pretty rocky start, we’re now very well acquainted. What do I mean by ‘rocky’? Well, bloody. I should preface this with the fact that I’ve never been a very adept shaver. Add to that applying way too much pressure to this new razor and you have yourself a perfect little storm. 

During my initial shaves with the Albatross, I used the razor just like my cheap plastic ones. Big mistake. Because the body of the Albatross razor is heftier, applying any additional pressure pushes the blade directly into your skin. Ouch! 

But before you write this method off completely—hold on. We’re not talking ER type cuts, just little nicks, easily fixed with a bandaid. A slow learner, it’s taken me almost a year to shave cut-free but now that I have a handle on it, I truly love this product and will NEVER go back. I use it on my legs, armpits, lil mustache, and uh yah, down yonder too. I only need to change the blade every 4-6 months and each replacement costs just cents. 

Another benefit of this particular brand is Albatross’ free blade recycling program that lets you mail in used razors to be repurposed rather than trashed in landfill. But if you aren’t able to buy Albatross’ razor and use their recycling program, I advise you collect your old razors in a pill container or Altoids box, something hard and difficult to puncture. When the container is full, put the entire thing in the trash. Never in recycling and never uncovered; the tiny pieces can damage disposal machinery and pose risk to workers. Obviously, this version isn’t completely waste-free, but you are still eliminating new plastics from being produced and added to the environment.

Buy it here

Package Free – $25 

Blade Refills – $.25 each

3. Bar soap | Ease of Switch 9/10 

Bar soaps are a cheap and easy way to cut back on plastic at the sink and in your shower. These zero-waste swaps are available in an incredible number of scents, packaging options, and sizes so most people won’t have trouble finding a good fit. If you can find and afford it, opt for a soap that is package-free, chemical-free, and biodegradable.

Natural bar soap is biodegrable and can be purchased completely pastic-free

Something you might also want when making the switch to bar soap is a self-straining holder. These little babies can be helpful in preserving the life of your soap and preventing the bar from becoming soggy. I like this one from the Zero Waste Store, but you can also make your own using rubber bands and a jar top

Dr. Bronners – $4.69 (I can often find this brand discounted at T.J.Maxx)

Toms of Maine – $4.99 (Try your local grocery stores as well) 

4. Toothpaste tabs | Ease of Switch 8/10 

If you like breath mints, toothpaste tabs will be a synch. Unlike some of the homemade solutions I’ve tried, toothpaste tabs don’t cause me to dry heave over the bathroom sink. Which is great. While you definitely don’t get the same rush of freshness as you do with a chemical-heavy Crest or Colgate, the tabs still leave your teeth and mouth feeling clean. Oh, and my dentist approves, too! 

I personally use Bites, although after doing this cost analysis, I’ll probably switch to Georganics. Regardless, both brands’ are cruelty-free and don’t contain sulfates or parabens. If you’re not a fan of traditional mint, Bites also has flavors like Berry Blast (good for kids) and Lavender Lemon. 

I love these Bites plastic-free toothpaste tabs

As for cost, Bites charges about $.2 per tab while Georganics is half that. My Bites subscription is $30 for four month’s supply that automatically renews, so I never run out. Their refills come in compostable, plant-based plastic, making even that part of the process zero-waste. Georganics, on the other hand, is about $26 for the same amount of tabs and they do not offer a subscription option.  

Truthfully, there’s not a huge difference in price or quality between either of these tabs. During this pandemic, Bites is more convenient because I can’t access a lot of local stores. However, after this period is over, buying Georganics makes more sense because it’s slightly cheaper, lets me support local business, and doesn’t require any added shipping. 

Buy it here 

Georganics tabs – $12.90 for 8 weeks 

Bites – $30 for four months  

5. Reusable Swabs | Ease of Switch 6/10 

I use ear swabs for makeup and, of course, a satisfying de-waxing. But daily use really adds up and these small items unfortunately often end up damaging waterways and oceans.

A zero-waste alternative to tradtional ear swabs

Fortunately, a very smart person invented a reusable & zero-waste swab. I own two different types; one for ears and one for makeup. Both are made out of a squishy, body-safe silicone and are easy to clean using just soap and water. They’re very comfortable and other than regular washing, don’t demand much of an adjustment. 

Earthsider – $12.95 (duo pack)   

LastSwab – $12 

6. Refillable Floss | Ease of Switch 10/10 

I hate flossing. What normal person doesn’t? But every time I go to the dentist, she reminds me it’s the only way to keep my own teeth. So I floss.

I started using refillable floss a few months ago and am very happy with this zero-waste swap. Before, I did try a low-waste floss wrapped in paper, but found it’s design totally non-durable and by the end of the pack, I was having to cut the floss with scissors. 

Low-waste charcoal floss by Georganics

Refillable floss, however, is just like regular floss but without the plastic waste. The container is made from glass and metal. And while normal floss is typically nylon, a type of plastic, most zero-waste floss is made from compostable 100% silk. The only exception I’ve found is Georganics charcoal floss, which contains some plastic in the form of polyester. Regardless of the brand you choose, always read the materials of your floss prior to buying to make sure you’re getting a wholly biodegradable option. 

As you may have guessed, refillable floss isn’t cheap. It averages about $7 upon initial purchase, plus $10 for two refills. I bought my current floss about four months ago, floss 3 times a week (don’t judge me), and still have a ways to go to finishing it. Out of all the products I’ve shared, refillable floss is arguably one of the most expensive and difficult to justify. But if you can afford it, you’ll be removing dangerously small and easy to swallow plastics from waterways and any animals in them. 

Buy it here

Public Goods – $2.50 

Boston General Store – $6.90 

Package Free – $11.99 

4 essentials elements of a healthy quarantine

Time is a fickle thing. If you’re like me, you probably complain a lot about not having enough of it. And yet, in the face of free time, we don’t always know what to do with the extra hours. It’s daunting, isn’t it? Free terrain. Space to roam. But cows manage. So why can’t we? 

As somewhat of a skilled procrastinator, I thrive in the busy and chaotic. But now, standing here in week four of quarantine, I’m starting to reassess where and when I’m most productive. 

While I definitely do work well under pressure, in my personal time, I often use other non-conflicting commitments as excuses. I’m too tired after work to do anything. There’s only an hour before I have to go meet someone. If I start that project now, I won’t be in the right headspace. Blah. Blah. Blah. It’s shocking how good I am at convincing myself there’s no time for the things I really enjoy.

Today though, those excuses only go so far. I’m no longer going out or commuting. I don’t really have plans and honestly, there’s only so many hours a day I can spend binging shows. So all those previously neglected activities, now I guess I have no choice but to give them my time. 

To both combat and embrace the added hours I now have to myself, I’ve found these four areas critical to staying positive and productive. They not only pass the time but also assure I’ll leave quarantine happier and more myself than when I started.

LEARN 

Without the pressure of grades, learning can be a great way to develop new skills and interests. Maybe you’ve wanted to learn a new language or get a little more creative. Obviously, in-person classes aren’t an option right now. But for some of us, they weren’t anyway. I looked into Spanish classes a while back and the total cost was in the thousands for less than a year! But fortunately, sites like Skillshare and apps like Babbel make it possible for you to learn affordably from anywhere, all at your own pace. 

Skillshare is an open platform where professionals in the field teach courses on graphic design, video editing, copywriting, and other creative topics. After your free trial, Skillshare is $99 a year for unlimited access, which means you can tune in and complete courses when you have the time. Really good at something? Skillshare makes it easy to become a contributor and upload your own courses to share with others.  

As for new languages, Babbel, Duolingo, and other apps on average cost less than $10 a month. Because you test into these programs, they’re great for everyone—true beginners to advanced speakers. I personally use Babbel to keep up with my Spanish language and writing skills. I love that the app offers speaking, writing, and matching exercises and how each course builds on the next. It really is like being in school but A LOT less pricey. 

Anyone else looking to get smarter about sustainability? Slow Factory is offering a three week, free crash course in sustainable literacy starting Friday, April 17th. Regardless of where you are in your own journey, this class offers valuable information from expert sources and can add some much-needed structure to your day.

If you’re willing and able to pay for them, the University for the Arts London (UAL) offers online short-courses spanning all areas of fashion sustainability. UAL is known internationally as one of the best fashion and arts colleges and is one of the only accredited institutions I’ve found that offers courses addressing the intersection between sustainability and the fashion industry. Their courses are taught by professors and are very much doable, even while working a full-time job. 

Finally, Coursera—yet another great online learning resource—is also offering a free, 14 hour Sustainable Fashion course through the Copenhagen Business School. The three instructors teaching the course work within the fashion industry and boast some pretty impressive resumes. For your convenience, the class is entirely pre-recorded so you can start whenever you’d like. You also have the choice to take the course for $49, which will get you a certificate of completion for you to post on your LinkedIn—or give to mom to put on the fridge. 

Like with any learning experience, success relies on your motivation. For example, I set aside 10-15 minutes almost every day to practice my Spanish on Babbel. It’s not a lot of time but because I do it consistently, I am noticing progress. If you’re a student already or working full-time, be reasonable with your time commitment. Don’t learn something just to get a certificate or check a box. Dedicate yourself to studying something you love and that you know will contribute to the skillset you want. 

CREATE 

I’m not sure why, but sitting at my computer all day at home is almost more draining than it is in the office. On top of the absence of people and energy, most days leave me feeling kind of like a wilted plant in need of some serious creative juices. 

I’ve found hands-on activities to be the most therapeutic for my drain. I actually have enjoyed cooking lately (?!) and there has been a surge in my embroidery activity. For some of my friends, puzzles have been a great use of their time. Others have started making their own cleaning products, sniff, and making me oh-so-proud. 

And it’s not even necessarily about backing away from the computer, just using it differently. For someone, recording a shitty podcast to share with friends could be a great release. My designer friend uses her iPad to create some really cool art that she then sells on Etsy. The beauty of creativity is that it can be anything you want it to be—and, most important, you don’t even have to be good at it to enjoy the process. 

MOVEMENT 

I don’t count my steps on a daily basis but I don’t need to to know that my mobility is blob-like right now. Even so, during this time, I’m trying not to worry about how much I work out and instead, focusing on my intentional movement. Some days, I wake up ready to go and log a 10k easy. Other days, take yesterday for example, I’m slower and spend 40 minutes flowing with Adrienne. It doesn’t really matter what I do, it’s just doing it that changes my outlook on the day. 

Leaving the house, walking your dog, riding your bike, reiki, pilates, stretching—it’s all intentional movement. I recommend logging this movement in the AM. Especially if you’re able to go outdoors, the mornings usually mean fewer people and it’s less likely that you’ll run into conflicts or constraints during those early hours.

So—mark it on your calendar, tell your roommate to wake you up. Do what you need to do to hold yourself accountable. You may grumble all the way outdoors or to your yoga mat but I promise that once you’re there, you won’t regret it. 

Here are some of my favorite free workouts: 

Chill morning

Quick Cardio

Firey Pilaltes

For runners 

Power Flow  

Cool Yin

Sleepy Time 

CONNECTION 

Even introverts are social creatures. Yup, you heard it here first. Although I’m not struggling socially as much as my extrovert pals, there are some days when I swear I’ve spoken more to my cat more than human beings. 

The world we live in is inherently social. We work in open office spaces and live our lives in constant communication. So of course it’s a shock to the system when our physical community is taken away and suddenly we have to learn—or maybe re-learn—how to connect. 

As much as social media is helping ease the burden right now, I encourage you to do more than like your friends’ photos. Check in with people individually to see how they’re really doing, set up virtual happy hours or game nights, and send cards, if you can. These gestures, that we might normally ignore or take for granted, count for so much right now. It’s very easy to assume people are doing fine so long as they’re physically well, but with the added stress of job and financial insecurity, online courses, and shifting home environments, you’d be surprised just how many of your friends would really appreciate a touch-base. 

Another fun thing I’ve noticed people doing is trying out different social media. Tik Tok is apparently a huge thing (AM I OLD?!) and I’ve been loving watching random celebrities force their families into group dances. If it’s not going to be disruptive, maybe you create a satirical Twitter or IG, join a dating app, or start a Youtube channel. It’s never too late and the time has never been better for these means of virtual connection. 

But for as great as social media is, there is someone even the latest iPhone can’t help you get in touch with. When it comes to self-care, taking a short break from your phone and computer can be really helpful for decompressing. Either because of work obligations or boredom, my screen time has gone up significantly since the stay-at-home order began. I get panicky about missing a text from a co-worker or not being there if my parents need to call. And those are all valid concerns, but so is caring for your personal wellbeing. 

Every day, I challenge you to set aside at least an hour where your phone is in a different room than you are. Go for a run and leave it at home. Eat dinner while your phone’s on Do Not Disturb in another room. Just get away from that crack devil, even if it’s just for a little while. 

There’s no doubt about it, now is one of the strangest and most difficult periods of time many of us will ever encounter. That’s why finding simple pleasures within your day is so critical. Don’t think of these activities and routines as requirements or scold yourself for not doing all of them every day. Instead, just take a little bit of each area and find the groove that works best for you. 

6 online, low-impact stores for everyday necessities

Typically, I don’t buy much online…well clothing. But other than that, I do most of my business IRL. Take that, millennial haters! And so far, my non-digital approach has served me well. I’m lucky to live in an area where it’s easy to find local grocery stores to support and with very few exceptions, I can purchase any household, cosmetic, or everyday essential within just a few miles of my house. 

But right now, everything’s a little different. Amidst the pandemic, bulk sections at my usual grocery stores are empty. Healthy and cheap go-to’s like oatmeal are difficult, if not impossible, to find. This on top of having to stand in line for hours just to get into virtually any store. And suddenly, something that was so simple and enjoyable for me just a month ago, is now a stressful time commitment. 

For the most part, I’m still trying to get my groceries around the neighborhood. I feel some obligation because of my good health (knock on wood) and access to a car to leave online stockpiles to those who really need them. Online orders also require additional gasoline and resources to ship and the more I can avoid adding to my footprint, the better. 

But if you do need toilet paper or some things for your pantry, the good news is you can find affordable, lower-impact options online. The following brands offer more sustainable alternatives to the Amazon’s and other one-stop-shops of the world. And even after shelter-in-place orders relax, you might find them to be a great addition to your lifestyle. 

The Wally Shop ($$ – $$$) 

In an attempt to mimic the “value, selection, [and] convenience” of her then current employer Amazon, founder of The Wally Shop, Tamara, split from the herd and started her own climate-conscious venture. 

Selling a range of bulk goods—olive oil to chocolate chips—in returnable and reusable containers, The Wally Shop is blazing trails where few digital businesses have ever been before. The site offers different size jars, letting you buy just what you need, and tells you the ideal number of products you’d have to buy in order for the carbon footprint of shipping to be worthwhile. At checkout, buyers pay a jar deposit that they’ll get back once their containers are returned as well as a flat rate for back-and-forth shipping. When your jars are empty, just send them back and you’re ready to start the process over again. Super simple & sustainable. 

Public Goods ($ – $$)

A smaller and more niche version of Costco, Public Goods is a members-only, semi-sustainable online grocery store. Membership is $59 annually (or about $4 a month) but you can try their products for free through their two week trial.  

In terms of quality, I think of Public Goods like a Trader Joes. Most of their products are unfortunately wrapped or packaged in plastic but, from what I can tell, the contents are more planet-friendly and/or healthy for your body. Their toilet paper, for example, is wrapped in plastic. But the paper itself is made from sugar cane and bamboo—bamboo being one of the more environmentally-friendly paper products out there. So it’s a trade-off. They also offer a lot of refillables which, if used properly, can reduce, but not eliminate, your plastic consumption. 

Overall, Public Goods scores lower for sustainability but offers really great value and access. If you are trying to limit your plastic use, I’d recommend sticking to their designated ‘zero waste’ section, glass or canned goods, vitamins, and avoid their travel & smaller sized cosmetic products. 

Package Free Store ($$ – $$$) 

Need a fresh shampoo bar, biodegradable dog poop bag, or reusable food storage pouch? The Package Free Store has it all. While their prices definitely fall on the higher side, Package Free has an incredible selection of sustainable products that are helpful in and out of quarantine. Keep in mind that the higher cost of eco-friendly products typically accounts for their longer lifespan and body-safe ingredients. But if that’s not enough justification, you can always try finding products of interest on other sites for a better deal. 

Package Free does offer a subscription program which will save you 10% on every order and prevent future oh-shit-I-ran-out-of-biodegradable-toilet-paper moments. 

Zero Waste Store ($$ – $$$) 

I owe my friend Mikayla for this one! (Hi, if you’re reading!) Like Package Free Shop, I trust the Zero Waste Store implicitly. They carry some of the best sustainable brands and offer a surprising number of smaller and more difficult to find names as well.

The Store offers shampoo and conditioner bars, candles, makeup, kitchen supplies, and more, all with minimal to no packaging. It’s also a woman-owned business and has a great blog if you’re looking for some reading material.

Sustain Naturals ($ – $$)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I heard Tinder’s not doing great with the whole social distancing thing. But that doesn’t mean the world has stopped having sex altogether. Like always, staying safe and comfortable is of the utmost importance. That’s where Sustain comes in.

Sustain, which in the past year was acquired by the subscription-based site, Grove Collaborative, was founded with the intention of destigmatizing intimate health. In addition to organic cotton tampons and pads, Sustain also makes fair trade latex condoms, water-based lube, and even a menstrual cup. Their products aren’t as affordable as K-Y or Trojan but they contain far less compromising materials. So they’re good for you, and better for the planet. 

Plain Products ($$ – $$$) 

Once I run through the shampoo and conditioner bars I’ve been meaning to try, Plain Products will be my next stop. As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve been skeptical of how a solid bar of product will interact with my hair. But, at the same time, I’m tired of big plastic bottles and long, chemical-packed ingredients lists. 

That’s why Plain is super cool. For $30—$27 with an ongoing subscription—you can get 16oz of liquid conditioner or shampoo. The product comes in metal bottles that you use and then send back to be refilled. No plastic. No waste. Plain has a range of body products, including lotions, body oils, face wash, and toner, all of which follow their low-impact system. 

If you’re looking to cut back on plastic within your beauty routine and can swing the higher price, Plain is a really good option. As someone who washes their hair 2-3 times a week, I can go four to five months on 16oz of product. That’s just cents per wash! 

sustainability style: my 2020 glowup

I’ve been making the transition to a low-impact lifestyle for a little over a year now. I say “transition” because so much of this process is about me forming and settling into new habits, none of which happens overnight. It’s all a work in progress and no matter what, there always seems to be some room for improvement. 

Taking into account the past year’s downfalls and successes, here are six ways I’m reevaluating my lifestyle & consumer decisions to make an even greater impact in 2020: 

No more stockpiling

The daughter of a chronically overprepared woman, I was born into a world where there was always a reserve of household supplies. Lotion, toilet paper, the same shirts in black, white and red. There was never a shortage of anything—sometimes to a fault. 

As I got older and began to pick up my own buying habits, I kept up with stockpiling. From white blouses to the perfect mascara, I was obsessed with having more than enough of everything. Unfortunately, this too often meant loading up on something I’d just end up donating or throwing out because it was no longer cool, necessary, or had passed its expiration date. Wasted money. Wasted space. Wasted resources. 

I still love being prepared—I keep a lip balm in every one of my bags for christ’s sake. But this year, I’m trying not to cross the line into over-preparation…toilet paper being the only exception. 

No fast fashion. No exceptions.  

I’m normally really good at dodging unethical brands. But, admittedly, I did make a few exceptions while traveling abroad in 2019. Figuring in the reduced shipping distance (most of Spain’s Zara garments are made in Morocco and Turkey) and timeless design, I ended up bringing back a Zara belt, jacket, dress, and shearling coat on two separate occasions. Have I worn the items? Yes, absolutely. But, let’s be honest—I know better.

Although they’re not coming from China or another country notorious for poor working conditions, there’s no way those garments were made by healthy, well-compensated Turks or Moroccans. Zara uses the same production model across its factories and buying from any store is supporting unethical practices. 

In trying to reevaluate why and where I shop in 2020, I’m cutting ties with all fast fashion brands and instead, exclusively buying from second-hand shops and ethical labels. The ‘no exceptions’ thing is going to be tough. But if I can’t say no to a piece of clothing, knowing all I do about its negative impacts and even though most of the time I can afford to find an alternative, well, let’s just say I’m not loving what that’s saying about me.  

Cutting back 

In tandem with my oath to not shop fast fashion, I’ll also be cutting back on how much I buy. My goal is to limit shopping to one or two indulgent/non-necessity (new or used) per month. This could be clothing, housewares, technology—anything I could really live without but want nonetheless. I’m hoping this change will help me to stick closely to my monthly shopping budget and consistently force me to take into account what I already own. 

No more guilty gifting

When it comes to gifting, there’s enormous pressure to buy, buy, buy. I’ve had so many experiences, both on the gifting and receiving side, where quality has been sacrificed for quantity. For my birthday this year, one of my friends didn’t know what I needed or wanted. Instead of guessing, she got me a gift card to a zero-waste store. It was perfect. I got exactly what I wanted and didn’t have any extra stuff I didn’t need lying around after. 

Whether it’s weddings, birthdays, or baby showers, I’m choosing to no longer give in to the social pressures and instead get people fewer, better quality items and/or experiences. 

Bye, bye subscription boxes 

Causebox, it’s been fun. I’ve loved trying all the new products and reading about the different brands. But after regifting up to half of each box, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s just not worth it. The thing about subscription boxes is that they let you try products you wouldn’t otherwise try…which probably means you didn’t need them in the first place. I love putting on a new lotion as much as the next girl, but by making my own beauty items or buying locally, I discover new brands without using or spending more than I really need to. 

Slowing down 

Instant message. Fast food. Our culture grooms us to expect everything now, right now. The problem is, the more we speed, the less time we have to really think about what we’re doing and, more importantly, why. Just last week, I found myself on a RayBan bender. I flew through Poshmark for hours, looking for THE PERFECT PAIR. In the past (reads: even a month ago), I would have closed the deal then and there just to satisfy the hungry consumer in my head. But I just couldn’t justify it. I have perfectly fine sunglasses. I could hate the way the style looked on me and not be able to send them back. Was I feeding into brandom? Bottom line—there were just too many cons and not nearly enough pros. 

Instant gratification feels great in the moment. It’s a buzz…until it’s not. The limelight of new items seems to fade for me after just a few uses. So rather than jump at the first fish I see, this year, I’m making a concerted effort to stop. Think. Then buy. This new mindset allows time to try to find an item used or of even better quality before ever reaching for my credit card.