We want our sunscreen to protect our skin—but what about our oceans? These suncare products end up in our waterways one way or another, whether we’re going for a swim at the beach or washing it off in the shower. Therefore, the sunscreens we use should be good for the environment just as much as it is good for our bodies.
Many conventional sunscreens use chemicals that are potentially harmful to marine life and cause coral bleaching. Others use ingredients that absorb into your skin and make its way through your bloodstream, which can lead to skin irritation, hormonal disruption, and even skin cancer. The trick is to find a product that creates a layer over your skin to protect you from the sun, wash off your body easily, and enter our water without hurting the environment.
It’s best to look for sunscreens that use non-nano or uncoated zinc oxide, which contains particles that are not small enough to penetrate the skin. You should also avoid sunscreens that include any of the following eight ingredients, according to variousstudies.
PABA (Aminobenzoic Acid)
If a brand claims it is cruelty-free, vegan-friendly, or naturally derived, this does notmean that it does not contain these chemicals. That’s why it’s so important to actually look at the ingredients in your sunscreen!
Here are a few options that do not contain the ingredients listed above and utilize non-nano zinc oxide in their formula.
Raw Love is Hawaiʻi’s first FDA compliant sunscreen company, according to their website. It uses 100% all natural plant-based ingredients (including unrefined coconut oil, raw shea butter, beeswax, and carrot seed oil) while also using organic farming methods.
The sunscreen comes in a 4-ounce or 2-ounce tin making it plastic-free packaging as well!
AllGood uses non-nano zinc oxide as it’s only active ingredient in both the spray and lotion sunscreens. They’ve packed some many antioxidants such as rosehip oil and green tea into the mineral sunscreens to help repair and support your skin.
The company offers other products such as lip protection, deodorants, and lotions which are also free of nasty chemicals.
The “Guards Up” daily mineral sunscreen is an SPF 35, oil-free formula with a creamy texture that won’t leave a white cast on the skin. The sunscreen container is made mostly of post-consumer recycled plastic and is recyclable—a double win!
Versed also offers other products that you can filter on their website based on your specific skincare concerns.
Raw Elements really lives up to its name because this is the cleanest formula I’ve ever seen.
It’s Face + Body Tube SPF 30 has just one active ingredient (non-nano zinc oxide) and added nutrients such as sunflower oil, coffee bean, green tea, and cocoa butter. The formula is USDA certified organic and is sure to moisturize the skin.
Badger has so many different options for sunscreen depending on your specific needs. There are products specifically for athletes, clear formulas for those who want to avoid white residue, and a formula specifically for babies and kids. You are bound to find an option that works best for you!
They are so transparent about their manufacturing processes, they even have a video on their website to show how they make their sunscreen.
Inspired by the One Year, One Outfit challenge, I am challenging myself to create a locally sourced and made outfit over the next year, and I invite you to join too!
The challenge is to create a 3 pieces from local materials and skills. Your “outfit” can be garments and/or accessories and it doesn’t have to be a complete outfit, just 3 pieces that you would love to have in your wardrobe. So for example your “outfit” could be a sweater, scarf, and hat, or a skirt, cardigan, and socks – pick items you know you will love and get a lot of use from!
I also want to add that if 3 items feels intimidating or is too much for you, just start with one, you can still take part!
Ideally the goal is to source everything from fibres to finished garment locally, but depending where you live that might not be possible and that’s okay, it’s about trying your best! Certain things might just not be available in your region and in that case expand your area, look in nearby regions or your country.
If you can’t find something, for example things like buttons, thread or zippers are likely not manufactured locally, you can get it elsewhere, but try to support small, local businesses (like a independent fabric shop) for supplies where possible.
Overall the idea is to learn about and support textile producers and makers in your area, and get some beautiful special pieces from your region and community.
Where to Start
Check and see if you have a local Fibershed this is a great to way to find local farms, producers, and makers in your area! But if it doesn’t show up on the map, also search “fibershed” and your region/province/state because many (like mine) have started up without being official affiliates.
(I also highly recommend reading the book Fibershed by Rebecca Burgess for some information and inspiration)
The best place to start is figuring out what types of fibres are available to you and if there are any local mills or spinners selling yarn or fabrics – if there aren’t any commercial mills, look into local weavers and spinners guilds to connect with.
Figuring out the type of material you have to work with is a huge step and you can then plan what to make!
Let’s do this Together
I’ve set up a “Local Outfit” challenge board in the MGC community forum as a place to connect, share updates, and resources for anyone wanting to take part.
You can also use the hashtags #OneYearOneOutfit and #MyLocalOutfit (created for this particular challenge) on Instagram to share updates!
I don’t sew or knit/crochet, can I still take part?
Yes! This challenge isn’t only for DIYers. You can connect with local designers, sewers, knitters, or textile artists to have your piece(s) made – it’s an incredible way to get a unique garment and support your local makers.
What about dyeing?
It’s your choice if you want dyed materials or not, many natural fibres are beautiful undyed!
You can look into getting dyed materials or dye them yourself. Ideally you can also use local, natural dyes.
It’s important to know going into this challenge that sourcing and making local garments is almost certainly going to be more expensive than your average mass-produced clothes, however try to view this as an opportunity to invest in an incredibly special and unique heirloom garment.
I would recommend deciding on a budget that works for you and letting that guide your project. So your budget might influence if you make 1, 2, or 3 pieces, what kind of materials you use and where you get them from, what types of garments you go with, etc.
After you find local suppliers and makers, get quotes from them so you know approximately what the costs will be before moving forward with your garment creation.
Don’t leave the water running when you brush your teeth. Your mom might have told you this as a kid, and it’s for good reason.
Have showers instead of baths. You don’t have to fill an entire bathtub with water.
Time your showers. Do you really need a 30-minute shower where you sing to your shampoo bottles? Avoid water waste by cutting those showers short.
Collect shower water or grey water in a bucket and use it to water your plants. It’s as simple as putting a bucket in the shower while you lather up, so nothing is wasted and your garden still gets some love.
Only do laundry when you have a full load. Conserve energy and water by making sure you don’t do laundry unless necessary. Your bank balance will thank you too.
Let clothes dry in the sun if possible. Who needs the dryer at all?! Put your clothes out in the sun and let them dry the natural way. You’ll save yourself so much money and energy in not using your dryer and your clothes will smell great!
When washing dishes in the sink, make sure you fill the sink first instead of just running water. Don’t let all that water just run down the drain. Fill the sink with soapy water and wash them properly. Rinsing before they go into the dishwasher? Fill the sink with some water and use that to rinse dishes.
Only use your dishwasher when you have a full load. It saves time, energy and money!
Save leftovers instead of throwing them away and make a second meal from them. If they’re still good, then make another meal from them. There are many interesting blogs and even TV shows about how to great another great meal from your leftovers.
Keep a reusable tote (or three) for when you’re shopping. Using cloth tote bags will help keep plastic waste down and they’re more durable. Plus, if there’s a spill, you can just throw them in the laundry.
Grab your coffee in a reusable mug. While there are some places that use recyclable coffee cups, one use cups are still not great for the environment. If you’re a regular coffee drinker, save the environment and some money with your own reusable mug.
Don’t print anything you don’t absolutely have to. And if you do have to print anything, recycle paper where you can.
Use cloth napkins instead of paper ones or paper towels. Paper napkins up to a month to decompose in the trash. Cloth napkins are far better and cheaper.
Buy local. When you buy local produce, you save money on shipping costs, get fresher produce, and support local farmers.
Pay your bills online and go paperless with important documents. No having to travel around to pay your bills and no printing pages upon pages of documents when you can just save the documents to your devices and the cloud.
Consider having one meat free day a week. A meat free diet really helps the environment, but even going meat-free once a week really helps lower carbon emissions as less land is needed to produce vegetables.
Buy products without packaging if possible. Use that tote bag and buy loose veggies instead.
Ask yourself if you really need that shiny new thing. Shop for stuff that you know for sure you need them and will be using them often and for long. This will reduce wastefulness.
Buying second hand [or join a freecycle group]. Using preloved items promotes the reduction of waste within a community. You also get to save money.
Use reusable containers wherever possible. Get a lunchbox that you can use every day, ask restaurants if you can take your leftovers home in reusable containers, store your pantry items in reusable containers.
Get a reusable stainless steel straw. Many places are no longer using plastic straws. You can save your need for them by getting yourself a metal one that can be attached to your keys or carried in your handbag and reused.
Water your plants and garden early in the morning. Watering your plants in the morning requires less water as the temperatures are cooler. Evaporation is less in the morning compared to evenings so less water is wasted.
No one says you HAVE to start doing all of these now, but doing small, sustainable things daily eventually become great habits and you’ll see your life improve for the better. Plus, there’s that great feeling of knowing that you’re doing little things to help the environment every day. So go forth and start your micro-habits today and see how they make a difference in your life and that of the planet.
This post is kindly sponsored by Tonlé, thanks for supporting the amazing brands that partner with My Green Closet!
Awareness around sustainable fashion is growing and customers are demanding more responsible products. A recent survey found 67% of consumers consider sustainable materials as part of their purchasing decisions and 63% take a brand’s general approach to sustainability into account. And brands are responding to these demands, both with genuine efforts but also unfortunately an increase in greenwashing.
“Circularity” has become a big buzzword with sustainability and while it can represent a new, important shift in the industry, it’s also used in misleading and deceptive ways. Companies sticking a clothing collection box in their stores or using a bit of recycled materials does not magically make them “circular”.
We need brands to go deeper and make real, holistic changes that aren’t just for marketing and press coverage. If a brand truly cares about reducing their impact and waste and helping build a better industry they need to be looking at the entire supply chain and life of the garments.
Circularity is so much more than Recycling
The concept of circularity in fashion is often misunderstood – we typically see it as taking the “waste” or end of a garment’s life and bringing that back around to the start of the supply chain ie. recycling the materials into a new garment, but it’s so much more.
Tonlé is a brand I love where circularity is threaded through all stages of their business. Unlike many “sustainable” brands who use an eco-friendly fabric and call it a day, the brands I really trust and respect are those where sustainably is a core value – brands like Tonlé who are constantly challenging the status quo and looking for innovative solutions while producing garments with heart, soul, care, and compassion.
Tonlé is a great example and case study to learn more about circular fashion.
Circularity Starts with Design
Products need to be designed with intention, for longevity, and with it’s next use in mind, otherwise there is no chance at a successful circular system.
From the beginning designers need to be thinking about how the garments can have as long of a life as possible. This might involve decisions such as:
Ignoring trends and instead developing a signature, timeless style for the brand
Selecting high quality sewing and finishing techniques
Considering options for end-of-life, extending use, and upcycling/recycling
While brands might have different design directions, the commonality is intentional and thoughtful design which considers the greater impact of the garments. Tonlé incorporates many of these elements as well as always looking for ways to learn, grow, and offer more inclusive designs.
Your Greenwashing is Showing
With fast fashion, “circularity” initiatives are flawed right from the start – highly trend-driven, poor quality pieces, and a high-turnover model for design, production, and consumption just has no chance at being successfully circular and part of a regenerative and restorative system.
When we view fabrics from a circularity standpoint, some key characteristics are:
Quality – poor quality materials are unfortunately most likely to quickly become waste
“Waste” Recovery/Reuse- can materials that might otherwise end up as trash be rescued and further utilized?
Recycled/Regenerated – can fabrics made from recycled materials be used? (although it’s important to note that recycling things like plastic bottles into clothing has it’s own issues and is more of a interrupted cycle or down-cycling system than a restorative, circular one)
End-of-life – What happens when the material is no longer usable in it’s state?
Can it be recycled into a similar or better quality product and not just down-cycled?
Brands can take different paths regarding their fabric choices and circularity. For Tonlé it means reclaiming and utilizing offcuts, “scraps”, and deadstock fabrics, turning them into beautiful and useful garments. This not only saves the resources of creating new fabrics but allows textile waste to circle back into the system.
A lot of textile waste is generated during production from leftover fibres and yarns in the spinning and weaving process, to cutting scraps and snipped threads.
It’s also important for brands to be mindful about how much they’re producing. Small batch production, made-to-order garments, or pre-sales are ways that brands can help ensure they aren’t producing too much.
Unwanted, Worn, & Damaged Garments
It’s not enough to just put a garment out into the world, sustainable brands should be conscious of it’s life-cycle and trying to prevent more textile waste from ending up in the landfill. Some ways brands can take responsibility for apparel waste are:
To help address this, Tonlé runs their Open Closet a store for pre-loved Tonlé pieces. People can trade in their used clothes which are resold, repaired, or turned into new pieces. It’s not only a wonderful way to reduce waste and keep clothing in the cycle but also a way to get a beautiful Tonlé garment at a lower price point, win-win!
True Circularity Means an Overhaul of the Industry
Waste is essentially part of all stages of clothing manufacturing and use (even while wearing and washing our garments we’re shedding tiny bits of waste ). Unfortunately the faster and cheaper garments become the less ability and incentive there is to reduce or recover that waste and bring it back into the cycle.
One example of how the industry has changed for the worse: traditionally fabric cutting would be optimized to use the least material possible (patterns were carefully jigsawed together to reduce waste and fabric costs), however this takes more time and with the speed of fashion now, it’s more important for factories to get the pieces cut as quickly as possible instead of efficiently using the fabric. Tonlé founder Rachel Faller said they often find huge offcut pieces leftover from brands – enough to cut long dresses or multiple garments from!
Rachel also told me about how a lot of the deadstock materials comes from factories over-ordering, (but not at the fault of the factory). Due to the quick production pace, factories don’t have time to order the appropriate amount of fabric after getting all the finalized numbers and info from the brand, like they would have pre-fast fashion. Instead they need to have enough fabric on hand to immediately meet the demands of the brand, because saying, “we can’t do that” or “it will take longer” could mean a lost contract, not being able to pay wages, and the brand going to another factory.
Like guest writer Hannah Neumann shared in a recent post, “Not only do the producers behind our clothes make the least amount of profit within the fashion supply chain, they also have the highest risk and least protection. “
The insane demands brands put on factories mean so much unnecessary waste is created simply to save a little time or money.
And then there’s also the misguided emphasis on textile recycling. Textile recycling is still very flawed, but fast fashion brands are using it to encourage guilt-free shopping. Harmful “Wear Recycle Repeat” type messaging promotes the idea that you can buy endless amounts of clothing and it’s sustainable because you’re recycling it.
We unfortunately have a long way to go regarding true circularity in the industry, new approaches and systems desperately need to be incorporated to foremost reduce, and then also recover and effectively recycle waste.
However it’s inspiring to see small, sustainable brands like Tonlé who are forging their own path, collaboratively developing and designing innovative systems, taking on challenges, and continuing to push themselves.
Things can be different and circularity in fashion can be so much more than a greenwashing buzzword!
Editor’s note: We might hear bits and pieces about how garment factories and workers have been affected by the pandemic, but what have things really been like? Hannah Neumann is a former ethical fashion blogger who started up the sustainable, worker-led, manufacturing cooperative TELAstory in the Philippines. She kindly agreed to write this post, sharing how the past year has been for TELAstory and also what we and the apparel industry as a whole need to learn from this experience.
Early 2020 Covid-19 lockdown in Manila, Philippines, was eerily quiet. Roads were blockaded. The only people out and about for essential errands were the one member per household holding government-issued paper passes. Police and military kept a vigilant eye out for unauthorized travellers and rule-violators. A full year later, we are still within one of the world’s longest and strictest quarantines, and still, there is no light at the end of the tunnel in sight. Yesterday, we hit a foreboding milestone in the country’s Coronavirus saga- the highest new case count in a single day. The situation isn’t improving, and no help is on the way.
Manufacturing clothing here in the Philippines in the midst of a global pandemic has compounded every challenge we already faced as a less than two year old garment manufacturing business. Fighting industry standards to give more power and better profit to Filipina workers is a monumental task even in the best of circumstances– a global pandemic just added to our list of obstacles!
One Year Ago
Within the first week of lockdown in March 2020, TELAstory had to quickly pivot and come up with a new production model and business plan. By the second week of lockdown, we’d lost over 70% of 2020’s orders (either cancelled or delayed indefinitely), and without a substantial emergency fund or access to any government aid we knew we had to act quickly. Public transportation in our city was completely shut down, and none of us at TELAstory have cars. We quickly cleared out our manufacturing space and sent all of our machinery and equipment to our workers’ homes so they could work safely, and we started working on patterns for masks and PPE.
We started a fundraiser to help pay for our workers’ wages while we sewed PPE for local hospitals and masks for our neighborhoods. We received a beautiful outpouring of support, but in a time of so much fear and need we only raised about $1300, just a little over a week’s salary for our full time employees. Selling masks was more effective, and we managed to keep afloat for several months by shipping box after box to the US and Australia.
For many months, we questioned if we would even survive as a business. Moving from producing products together in a common space, with many hands and eyes to catch mistakes and collaborate on designs to handling production, design, and quality control remotely was a logistical nightmare. Without a vehicle of our own, we were spending far too much on motorcycle couriers ferrying materials back and forth. We carried massive boxes of product miles on foot to the nearest open shipping office since we couldn’t just hop in a taxi.
In our facebook messenger group chat, the TELAstory Titas (our seamstresses) sent GIFs; “every gising is a blessing!” (each new day is a blessing) in multicolored font. Another, accompanied by a smiling baby; “Keep safe. Smile, it will make you feel better. Pray, it will keep you strong”
Of course, the entire fashion industry was suffering, not just our small team. We watched as retailers’ sales dropped and brands struggled… the difference was that brands could pull out from orders (as we personally experienced), stop spending money, and in many cases, save themselves.
What We Can Learn
Running a garment business in a pandemic has really driven home several points that I believe are crucially important to open up a dialogue on in response to the pandemic’s impact on producers; risk- sharing, profit margins, and collaborative and mutually respectful partnerships.
Remember the first two weeks of lockdown, when 70% of our booked orders disappeared? In the 4 weeks prior to the Philippines’ lockdown, in preparation for the next six months, TELAstory had just hired 3 new full time workers, purchased several new machines. We’d also recently moved our lease to a bigger and more expensive space. It was absolutely devastating to us as a business to have these elevated expenses after the pandemic hit. But that’s the way the fashion production industry works.
Kim Van Der Weerd of Manufactured podcast explains this beautifully in the context of larger factories in a recent explainer video– Manufacturers have to make “irreversible financial decisions” on hiring new employees, buying supplies, holding space in the production line, etc based on the orders that are forecasted by the clients, far before orders are finalized and contracts are signed. When disaster hits, who is hurt the most? We need to come up with a better system where producers have more power and the brands have more risk.
TELAstory pays some of the highest wages I know of within the small-scale sustainable manufacturing world here in the Philippines, which makes our profit margins extremely lean. This is the only way we can both pay our workers a TRUE living wage, and book clients. We’d love to have a bigger profit margin, as a company, but it’s just not feasible within the current system. Raise profit margins, and prices go up. When prices go up, clients go elsewhere- even clients focused on sustainability and fair wages. There will always be another ethical workshop or sustainable factory with a lower price.
Part of what makes it so difficult to raise prices to a more healthy profit margin (still modest, but enough to build up an emergency fund for our employees and invest in building better infrastructure), is the secrecy surrounding wages and lack of open dialogue, even between responsible brands. Banding together and establishing a better universal standard for what constitutes fair pricing would help reduce “race to the bottom” attitudes. In order for TELAstory to make a more fair profit, we need more transparency within the industry as a whole, not just from a select few players.
Collaborative and Respectful Partnerships
Now more than ever, it’s so important for brands working with producers to be understanding and foster a strong mutually trusting and collaborative relationship with producers. Engaging in fashion as a brand or designer is an immense privilege. Having access to time to create and dream, access to build a supporter base of shoppers, having capital to place an order or access to fair-interest business loans… The burden of hard, low-compensation labor for fashion production falls mostly on the shoulders of black and brown women who live paycheck to paycheck.
There have been times that I’ve seen members of my team cry together over an impossible demand or from a brand, feeling more like machines than valued human beings. Clients often want us to cut corners, lower prices, pass less expense on to them. Garment workers are such an essential part of any brands’ story. We sew the $6.00 dress that enables a new ethical brand to sell it for $99.00. When there’s an issue with fabric supply, a pandemic shipping delay, or any number of issues, there’s little understanding and room for collaboration and mutual problem-solving.
In the wake of this pandemic, especially, I want to see more honoring of the difficult work that garments workers do for the profit of their clients. I want to hear more clients say “this is my budget, here is the maximum I can alot for fair-wage sewing costs” rather than “how low can you go?”. It is so essential to build up equitable treatment and compensation for players in every aspect of the garment industry. With privilege comes responsibility.
Surviving and Looking Ahead
So, where is TELAstory at, now? We’re still here, we’re still fighting. Day to day, operations are still stunted by the effects of lockdown. Many of our local suppliers have been shut down or are constantly out of stock on essentials. We have to travel farther to find basic sewing supplies, or order from overseas. Without a vehicle, we still spend alot on safe and effective transportation, but we’ve found other areas to cut down on expenses. Many things in Manila are significantly more expensive than they were a year ago, from food to international shipping costs.
Even though our local COVID situation has worsened, overseas orders have slowly increased as other countries begin to move toward normalcy. We’ve launched half a dozen brands in the last six months through our Launch Your Line program– the slowing of orders from regular clients gave us time to really focus on working with aspiring designers, whether or not they have any background in fashion, to produce some really beautiful collections- from responsibly made and well-fitting scrubs to a Filipino-heritage inspired line by a talented artist who designed her own textile prints! We’re also beginning to connect to a larger network of makers outside our own team (hence our name change from TELAstory to TELAstory Collective) to expand into accessories and home goods manufacturing.
Yes, the pandemic has brought us new challenges, but also new dreams for how we can dismantle elements of an outdated and unequal system and keep building something better in its place.
Most of us are familiar with ways to reduce our individual environmental footprint but how do we help influence sustainable policies?
Figuring out how to navigate through the bureaucracy and effectively reach policymakers can be a daunting task. Fortunately, there are a few ways we as constituents can reach out and make our voices heard.
Most methods of communication are fairly straightforward, but some do require more effort on our part. An important aspect to consider is the effectiveness of each method of communication.
[Please note: This will vary depending on your country and the political system. There is also unfortunately a lack of research in this area, but there are some studies and things we can learn to improve our political impact.]
Many of us are on social media, which makes it an easy mode of communication. Social media isn’t the most effective way to reach policymakers, but it is still a valuable tool we can use to make our voices heard. Spreading awareness of an issue is an important aspect to instigating successful policy change. The more constituents that are invested in an issue, the more pressure there is for elected representatives to perform accordingly.
There is some evidence showing that more elected officials are using social media, such as Twitter, as a means of gauging support for certain issues. A study conducted in 2015 found that policymakers do use Twitter as a means of gathering scientists’ views towards certain policy proposals. While most of us probably aren’t scientists, there is still plenty of potential to use social media effectively to communicate our policy preferences.
Online petitions have been around for many years at this point, but the research on their effectiveness has only recently been closely evaluated. A 2020 study looking at the effectiveness of e-petitions in the British Parliament found that only 23% of survey respondents (MPs which opted into the survey) believed that e-petitions carry any influence passing legislation through Parliament. Many respondents in the survey expressed that direct communication between constituent and MP is their preferred way to hear about constituent concerns.
This isn’t to say that e-petitions aren’t useful. Other respondents in this study said they found e-petitions useful because they helped MPs gauge support for issues. It may be a good idea to follow up any petition you sign with a direct contact with your policymaker – a short email letting them know that you’re a constituent and signed a petition for policy change can go a long way.
Email is another great way to communicate with policymakers about changes to sustainability policies. A study conducted in 2009 looked at how email influences a policymaker’s voting decision. The study showed that direct communication via email between constituent and policymaker had a substantial influence on the policymaker’s voting behavior.
A couple of notes about emailing policymakers;
Keep your message short and concise.
Try to avoid using form-style messages. These can be easy to spot because they generally have vague language and aren’t very personal.
A personal message is more likely to be read than a bulk-style message.
Besides email, phone calls are also a great way to voice your opinion on sustainability policies. A field experiment conducted in 2015 examined the effectiveness of direct communication between constituent and policymaker through phone calls. In their experiment, the authors found an eleven to twelve percent increase in the probability that a lawmaker would support a specific piece of legislation if they were called about the issue. It’s important to note that this study used exclusively phone communication as the method of contact between representative and constituent. Per the study authors, phone calls are perceived as requiring more effort on the part of the constituent than emails, thus making them more effective.
If you do call, you likely won’t be able to directly talk to your elected official. Instead, you’ll be prompted to either leave a message or speak with an aide or intern. Plan what you’re going to say before you call and be sure to keep it short and simple.
Finally, protests are another means of communicating with policymakers. Protests require the biggest time investment, but are definitely catalysts for change. A 2007 study looked at protests focusing on environmental policy reform from the late 1960s through the late 1990s. The study revealed that the protests were effective at instigating policy reform because they brought environmental issues to the forefront of the public’s mind. Lawmakers are more willing to address an issue if a large portion of their constituency are watching.
What to Say
Contacting elected officials and policymakers can be a daunting task, but here are a few things to consider including in your message.
Your name and contact information
The official you’re contacting needs to know you’re a real person.
This is important. A policymaker cares about the opinions of his or her constituents. If you don’t live in a policymaker’s district/province/municipality, your opinion will likely be ignored because you aren’t a direct constituent.
Make sure you clearly state your opinion on the issue. It’s a good idea to include why this is an important enough issue that you’re taking the time to reach out. Cite facts from credible sources.
If there is a piece of legislation currently in progress, express your support/lack of support for that particular piece of legislation. If there isn’t a solution or a tentative solution, suggest one if you have something you think is viable.
It’s also a good idea to keep your message as short and concise as possible, so the reader or listener doesn’t lose interest.
Part of the fun of special events like prom is getting dressed up! You get to wear a beautiful outfit, have fun and take photos… but it’s unfortunately a sad tale for the clothes. Typically a formal dress or outfit is purchased, has one (maybe two if you’re lucky) special nights out, and then hangs in a closet for years collecting dust until it’s eventually decluttered.
Formal wear is not only expensive but also requires more resources, labour, and energy to manufacture than your average garment, which makes the fact that most are only worn once even more tragic.
However, one amazing solution is clothing rentals!
Here’s 4 reasons why renting dresses and outfits for special events, proms, parties, graduations, or weddings (you can even rent wedding dresses!) is so much better than buying them…
And before we jump into it, a huge thank you to Kelley for modelling these gorgeous dresses, rented from The Fitzroy (pink ballgown), Beyond the Runway (sequin gown), and our local Dress Library (short green dress) 💚
Renting is More Sustainable
This is a huge one.
It doesn’t sound glamorous, but most formal dresses are essentially a lot of plastic. Clothing, and especially synthetic dresses, are incredibly unsustainable – there’s not only all the petroleum and other resources they require, but also all the energy and labour to make them (possibly by under-paid and over-worked garment workers). On top of that there’s all the waste both from the manufacturing process as well as when people are done with them.
With rentals however, 1 dress can be shared by many people – saving all the plastic, energy, pollution, and labour of producing 10x (or more) new dresses!
You Can Save Money (sometimes a lot)
Formalwear is expensive! Justly so though – it does take a lot of work to make, but it’s also a pretty penny to pay for something that only gets worn once.
For reference, the three dresses we rented for this shoot cost:
Green fit & flare dress – regular price $180, rents for $45
Sequin mermaid gown – regular price $267, rents for $60
Blush pink ballgown – regular price $850, rents for $125
That’s a savings of $135 to $735!
Get a Statement, Designer, or Dream Dress
Because formal dresses can be so expensive there is often pressure to get something that is versatile and can be worn more than once. While it’s of course a good thing to get more wear from a garment, it can also mean skipping over your “dream dress” in favour of something more practical.
With a rental you can go for that extravagant, statement, or showstopping dress without the worry or pressure of “where will I wear this again?“.
If you like designer clothing, it’s also a way to wear a beautiful designer dress for a fraction of the retail price.
No Cleaning or Storage Required
On top of the price of your formal outfit there are usually also dry-cleaning costs, plus the hassle of taking it to the cleaners – with rentals, most companies take care of the cleaning for you! After your event you just return the garment.
Renting also means that you don’t need to find space to store your dress – especially great if you’re wanting a ballgown style which can sometimes take up half a closet just on their own.
How Does it Work?
Renting a dress or formal outfit is pretty simple, you either go in to try them on and reserve for a few days around your event, or order a dress to be shipped for your event. You wear it, have a blast, and after the celebration drop it off or ship it back in a pre-paid shipping box, or garment bag.
This is an understandable concern with rentals and here are some ways to ensure a great fit:
Look for Local
Finding a place you can rent locally means you can try outfits on beforehand to find the perfect fit and style. Many rental services have showrooms and more and more small, local rental businesses seem to be opening up!
We got the green dress pictured from a lovely woman who runs The Dress Library in my hometown, Edmonton. She has a variety of formal to more casual dresses (include some vintage and costume pieces) for different events and styles. Another perk is that local rentals can also be even more affordable!
If you happen to be in Toronto, The Fitzroy also has a local showroom and an unbelievable selection of gowns and dresses.
Renting a dress locally not only means you can make sure everything fits and looks right beforehand but you also don’t have to worry about the shipping.
Go With Great Service
If you’re having a formal dress shipped, being able to ask a lot of questions is incredibly helpful!
The Fitzroy, where we got the pink ballgown from, has a both store in Toronto and ships across Canada. They not only have hundreds of formal dresses to choose from (available in sizes 0-18) but also amazing customer service! If you can’t go in to pick out a dress, you can book a free virtual appointment with one of their stylists; you can see the dresses and they provide suggestions based on your style and body type, and also can check the measurements to help with fit. Plus they are available 24/7 to answer any questions you might have!
After we picked out a dress we liked, they were very helpful about the fit and checked Kelley’s measurements with the dress. Based on their recommendation we actually ended up sizing down and I’m so glad for their feedback as it fit beautifully!
So my biggest tip when ordering a special event dress is: don’t be afraid to ask questions about the dress and fit, and if you’re unsure of what style, they’re happy to help! Get as much info as you need, and definitely go with a company who has good communication and is helpful with answering your questions.
Get More Than One
While most special event rentals rent one item short-term, getting a clothing rental subscription is another option. It gives you multiple items on a monthly basis with some even offering swaps during the month. Many subscription services also carry formal dresses so it could be a great way to pick out a few pieces to see what works best.
For example Beyond the Runway, where we got the sequin gown from, does both a one-time event rental starting at $60, and a monthly subscription starting at $99. Their monthly subscription allows you to rent 4 items and swap items once during the month if you chose.
With a subscription you could take time and try different options to find your perfect outfit as well as try out some other pieces in your wardrobe.
(if you’re interested in trying Beyond the Runway’s subscription, they gave me the promo code BTR621KXN which you can use for 50% you first month 🙂 )
Overall, renting formal dresses and special event clothing just makes sense!
I’ve had a great experience every time I’ve rented pieces and love that you can wear beautiful garments for a more affordable price, without the extra commitment, and also reduce the environmental impact.
5 Vegan Leather Alternatives to PU and PVC (and Everything You Need to Know About Them)
The ongoing debate of which vegan leather alternatives are the most sustainable is, well, ongoing.
We all understand at this point that traditional leather, usually made from cowhide, isn’t necessarily a debate around sustainability but about ethics (although leather is also very unsustainable). We all feel better when our products and foods are cruelty-free. But, when deciding which vegan leather alternative to choose, we have to consider the production process and lifespan of the product before making a buying decision that aligns with our values.
Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a rise in the vegan leather trend where products have been mostly made from polyurethane (PU) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). But, at the end of the day, we need to remember these are still plastics.
Now, before we jump into learning about 5 amazing vegan leather alternatives, let me break down what the heck PU and PVC “vegan” leather products are made of and how they are made.
Let’s get to know Polyurethane (PU) & Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Polyurethane (PU) is a thermoplastic polymer mostly used in the making of shoes and furniture. For a while we’ve been seeing PU as the standard for vegan leather handbags and accessories because of its foam-like texture, and ability to look and feel like a natural leather.
PU is a plastic product that has been linked to health issues and irritation specifically to the skin and lungs (and unfortunately, PU is everywhere – usually found in your walls, your mattresses, and objects that you can’t avoid in your own home). This is why we’re raising eyebrows around the continued use of PU, especially for products where alternatives are available, as we need to consider how ethical this material is not for just ourselves, but also our beloved mama earth.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a little bit more of a bad boy. Derived from chlorine, carbon, and ethylene (three horrible chemicals that are not at all eco-friendly), PVC is actually one of the most toxic plastics we have within our homes (and can even be found in children’s toys)! However, the plastic is extremely durable and used in a wide array of products so it doesn’t seem to be disappearing anytime soon.
When it comes to using PU and PVC in vegan leather products, we need to weigh the pros and cons.
The pros of PU and PVC:
PU and PVC vegan leather products come in tons of vibrant color options since the polymers used hold color much better than other vegan leather alternatives.
PU and PVC are waterproof, therefore super easy to clean!
PU and PVC use far less resources than what is needed to produce real leather (for the material production, synthetic leather has 1/3 the impact of cow leather according to the 2017 Pulse Report)
However, the cons of PU and PVC include:
Neither PU or PVC are biodegradable or eco-friendly. PU consists of petroleum products, and PVC is made from ethylene gas from natural gas or petroleum (and as a result, these materials can be quite smelly).
You need to take special care of your PU and PVC accessories as they are prone to crack and tear easily (and can be impossible to mend!).
On the aesthetic front, PU and PVC can look quite synthetic. If you’re going to go with a PU or PVC vegan leather product, I would recommend sticking to neutral shades, vibrant colors will be more prone to wear and tear.
No shame or guilt if you already own a PU or PVC vegan leather product – the more you know, the better buying decisions you can make.
The good news is you don’t have to resort to only plastic to practice vegan fashion. That’s why we’re going to introduce you to our favorite 5 vegan leather alternatives that will align with your values of cruelty-free, sustainable, and ethical made fashion.
I love cork. I’ve owned cork shoes, handbags, and coasters (duh Jazzmine, we all have!).
Cork is a renewable, raw material that comes from Quercus Suber, cork oak trees (didn’t know that, did ya?!). It’s found along the Mediterranean, with most production coming from Portugal, and northwest Africa.
The Quercus Suber is an incredible tree as well, as it can thrive in just about any drought and doesn’t put much pressure on the native soil.
Cork is extracted from the middle of the bark of the Quercus Suber tree and continues to grow back and blossom for years to come, reducing any threat to deforestation.
Cork is water resistant, extremely light, and super soft – you could literally make a pillow out of it (if you wanted to)!
Cork can be recycled and upcycled, making it one of the most sustainable and circular materials available to the fashion industry.
The cons of cork leather:
Unfortunately, cork products are often accompanied by a PU lining or backing when used for handbags and accessories. The sucky part is brands aren’t always transparent about this, so you’ll want to ask the hard questions before you buy.
There really aren’t many cons to this super sustainable material, but if you’re looking for an array of colors, you ain’t going to find it with your cork products. If you’re all about neutrals, cork is for you!
This incredibly innovative and relatively new material is made from pineapple leaves. Piñatex was trademarked by Carmen Hijosa under her company Ananas Anam after seeing firsthand the horrifying environmental impacts of the leather industry on the Philippines. She was destined to find an alternative solution. The result: an opportunity to provide year-round employment to pineapple farmers, decrease agricultural waste, and offer the fashion industry a sustainable textile.
The process of creating Piñatex includes extracting fiber from pineapple leaves, sun-drying the fibres, and mixing the remaining fluffy material with a corn-based polylactic acid (PLA).
If you haven’t seen Piñatex fabric or had the chance to feel its incredible textile, I’m sure just by picturing pineapples you can imagine how smooth and leather-like the textile becomes after processing (making it a perfect vegan leather alternative!).
The pros of Piñatex leather:
The base material of Piñatex is pineapple leaves, a by-product of pineapple harvesting. Utilizing Piñatex in vegan leather products helps minimize food waste, and maximize profits for farmers by promoting circularity in agricultural development.
Piñatex takes color really well, making it a super fun textile to play with.
Honestly, it’s a pretty dope fabric and looks fabulous, from handbags to shoes to jackets.
The cons of Piñatex leather:
Unfortunately, to improve durability, Piñatex is coated with a PU resin.
Piñatex is prone to fading over time and can be damaged quite easily (mostly due to its lack of chemical protection), so you’ll want to take good care of your Piñatex products.
It has a very distinct look and texture which some might not like.
Apple pie, apple tarts, apple crisp, and now, apple leather. Apples continually give us sweet goodness, and now it’s bringing us a sustainable, vegan leather alternative.
The innovator behind apple leather is Alberto Vocan, a Milan-based engineer on a mission to reduce food waste and increase the sustainability of textile production.
So, how the heck do you make apple leather?
Remember those terribly addictive, sugary fruit leather rolls you would eat as a lunch time snack in elementary school? Basically like that, instead apple leather for commercial use uses the apple peels and cores (yes, food waste!). After pureeing the apple waste, the mushy pulp is spread onto a sheet and dehydrated until all moisture is removed. After dehydrating the apple puree, you are left with a fine, leathery sheet.
The pros of apple leather:
Versatile and can be made in a variety of colours, looks, and textures.
The base fibre of apple leather is made entirely of food waste.
Apple leather is extremely durable, as in that new apple leather wallet will never look like you actually used it (!).
The cons of apple leather:
You’ll still find PU and PVC used in the binding of most apple leather products.
Just by looking at cacti you can instantly tell that this favorite (and easy to care for) desert friend would make an incredible vegan leather alternative.
Cactus leather is relatively new, brought to market in 2019 by Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez. Currently they are the only producers of cactus leather, grown and processed at their plantation in Mexico under the name Desserto.
Similar to our Piñatex and apple leather processes, cactus leather is processed by taking the mature leaves of the cacti plant, mashing them up, and giving them some good time to dry out under the beautiful Mexican sun. The Desserto team uses natural dyes to transform the color of their cactus leather textiles, making the finished product another eco-friendly and vegan alternative to leather.
The pros of cactus leather:
No fertilizers or chemicals are needed in the agricultural production of cactus, nor in the finishing of the material, making it one of the only certified organic vegan alternatives to leather.
Believe it or not, it’s soft!
Surprisingly it’s pretty easy to dye, therefore you don’t have to love the color green to sport cactus leather fashion.
Most of the reporting on Desserto calls it “partially biodegradable” but because of the proprietary nature there doesn’t seem to be further information about why this is.
To me, there is nothing more magical and intricate than the working of mycelium. The way fungus lives under our soil and continues to thrive and provide nutrients to just about every living orgasm is absolutely mindblowing.
Mycelium can be grown in just about anything, from saw dust to agricultural waste. Not only is it an essential element of our ecosystems, it’s becoming an essential component to address our need for a sustainable textile and vegan leather alternative.
MycoWorks was founded in 2013 by Philip Ross and Sophia Wang, the house that would bring Reishi to market, the world’s first mycelium textile in collaboration with Matt Scullin who is the current CEO.
Mylo is another mycelium leather developed in 2018 by Bolt Threads in the Netherlands.
Mushroom leather is an organic textile made from mushroom spores and fibers. It can be used as a vegan leather alternative, or grown over the shape of another object to create whatever item you’d like (such as a lampshade!).
The pros of mushroom leather:
Some mushroom leather options can be biodegradable and compostable.
Mushroom leather is light-weight, flexible, and versatile for multiple fashion, accessory, and traditionally leather products.
Mushroom leather does not need to be treated, therefore production does not harm our beautiful mama earth in any way.
The cons of mushroom leather:
Mycelium needs a lot of water to grow. Although there is currently no sourced information about the impacts with large scale production, I’m sure we’re soon to find out as the alternative becomes more mainstream across the industry.
There is no further information about additives or finishes with mushroom leather. Mylo for example just states, it’s “certified bio-based”. Others are also experimenting with mushroom leathers, however, with such a new textile we have much to learn.
So, what’s your new go-to vegan leather alternative?
I know my favorite will always be cork, however as a zero waster, my heart is so warmed to know that innovators are taking on food waste-based fibres for textile creation. You can expect very similar processing, pros, and cons from just about any agricultural-driven vegan leather alternative, from mango leather to banana leather.
Share with us below what you currently own, how you’re feeling about these alternatives, and of course, let us know if you have any questions. The fashion industry is in the midst of a very exciting time for exploration and innovation. As we continue to weave together our love for style and our love for humans, animals, and the planet, we will continue to transform the industry into a circular, sustainable space.
No matter where you are, your outfit should make you feel powerful while also remaining comfortable. This has been my biggest struggle during my transition to a capsule wardrobe. I often thought I needed two completely different closets: polished for the office and comfy for the weekends. I quickly learned this just meant I was buying clothes more often while forgetting what I even had in my closet. Instead, I created one capsule wardrobe that fits my style and works for any occasion.
I decided to use the Project 333 challenge to choose my wardrobe for the spring season. I’m expecting to be back in the office five days a week, but this capsule framework can also easily be adapted for work-from-home situations that require more formal wear. Of course, your wardrobe should be carefully curated to fit your needs. This is why I’m going to show you exactly what’s in my closet, but also provide some tips on how to create a capsule wardrobe that will work from office to weekend – and your own personal style!
Establishing your Versatile Essentials
You’ll see below that I’ve decided not to organize this capsule wardrobe by clothing categories such as tops, bottoms, and shoes. Instead, I thought it’d be more useful to show you my items in the order that I picked them for this capsule.
First, I chose what I call my “versatile essentials.” In most cases, these will be items that go with everything in your closet but the most important criteria for these pieces should be that they can be worn in both a work and weekend setting.
I’ve listed my 15 versatile essentials below. You’ll find that many of them are the usual basics – such as a white tee or black booties – but I’ve also thrown in some “fun” pieces that I can wear in various situations.
White scoop-neck tee
Beige wrap sweater
Green paperbag pants
Lightweight gray cardigan
Beige long-sleeve bodysuit
Black skinny jeans
Floral midi skirt
Beige trench coat
Leopard flowy pants
Black leather tote bag
Picking your “Casual” Pieces
When I say “casual” I mean anything that you can’t wear in an office setting. For instance, I work a pretty standard corporate job which means that sneakers and denim are off limits in the workplace. Because of this, I’ve limited these pieces to only 10 out of the 33 items in my capsule. The purpose of this isn’t to make a tiny casual wardrobe within your closet but instead to have a few key casual pieces that can be added to make an outfit feel more casual. My favorite example of this is a classic denim jacket and sneakers, which can quickly transform a work-appropriate dress into a more casual look!
Black slouchy v-neck tee
Gray graphic tee
Green anorak jacket
Brown cross bag
Picking your “Dressy” Pieces
It’s now time to use this same logic when choosing some “dressy” pieces for your capsule. This means items that you wouldn’t typically wear outside of work, but are still good to have when you need to dress up an outfit. The perfect example of this is the classic kitten heel. These shoes are my go-to for the office but definitely aren’t casual wear. Although, I can also pair the heels with some jeans and a cute top if I’m going out for a drink. The same goes for the classic black blazer, which can instantly dress up a pair of pants, skirt, or a dress. Here are my 8 dressy pieces:
Black sleeveless turtleneck
Black leather midi skirt
Black kitten heels
Overall, your comfort should triumph over anything else. If an item is too uncomfortable to wear outside the office (or outside your house!) then it shouldn’t be in your capsule wardrobe. If you have a good set of versatile essentials to build from with a few casual and dressy items, then creating looks that go from workday to weekend will be quick and easy!