Looking for an easy, one-stop shop to pick up sustainable and ethically-made clothing for everyone? Here’s a roundup of conscious brands that make clothes for women, men, and children so your whole family can look great while having a lighter impact on the planet and supporting ethical manufacturing practices! I’ve also specially indicated the brands that offer matching mini-me/twinning outfit options.
This round-up is in partnership with Tentree, one of my family’s most-worn sustainable clothing brands.
If you counted the brands in our closet, between my husband and I Tentree would be a clear favourite. We love their focus on functional, comfortable, and good quality, yet still stylish and easy-to-wear casual clothing.
Regarding their sustainability, Tentree’s efforts and impact goes well beyond planting trees with each purchase and reforestation projects, they also:
Use lower impact materials such as Tencel, organic cotton, hemp, and recycled polyester made from plastic bottles.
Track the environmental footprint of their garments.
Looking for fun prints and graphics? This is the brand for you! Dedicated is a Swedish streetwear brand with strong values – they use sustainable materials like GOTS and Fair Trade certified cotton, recycled polyester and Tencel, are a PETA-Approved vegan brand, and manufacture with SA8000 and WRAP certified factories.
Based in: Sweden Sizes: Women XS-XL, Men XS-XXL, Children 56-134 Price for a T-Shirt: €29 – €35
A marketplace for all your sustainable needs! US-based EarthHero carries a fantastic selection of not just women’s, men’s, baby and children’s clothing brands but also sustainable accessories, home, and low-waste lifestyle products.
Based in: USA Sizes: Women XS-XXL, Men S-XXL, Children 0M-8 Price for a T-Shirt: $24 – $37
German brand Living Crafts carries a large variety of organic basics, loungewear, underwear, pajamas, and everyday clothes for the whole family. They are GOTS certified and members of the Fair Wear Foundation.
Based in: Germany Sizes: Women XS-XL, Men S-XL, Children 62-158 Price for a T-Shirt: €13 – €45
Need some new denim for the family? Warp + Weft has jeans for everyone and their denim is spun, dyed, and sewn in their own US-based factory where they have implemented water-saving initiatives and low-impact finishing.
Based in: USA Sizes: Women 00-24, Men 29-42, Children 2T-14 Price for Jeans: $26 – $98
A sustainable staple for outdoor, active and everyday casual-wear. Patagonia uses a variety of sustainable materials, has a great take-back/upcycling program, and the majority of their products are Fair Trade certified.
Based in: USA Sizes: Women XXS-XXL, Men XS-XXXL, Children NB-14 Price for a T-Shirt: $29 – $55
Gifts are always tricky when it comes with wanting to live more minimally and clutter-free or trying to reduce your environmental impact and make more sustainable choices, but whether you are the gift-giver, or parent trying to request more conscious gifts, here are our tried and tested gift ideas that minimalist and eco-minded families and kids will appreciate.
This is an easy, exciting, and clutter-free gift, that allows the celebration to extend beyond just the special day! There are tons of options for experience gifts depending what the child is interested in, but here are a few great ideas for places you can gift tickets or memberships:
Bath Bombs & Bubble Bars
Swirling fizzy colours, fluffy bubbles, fruity or floral scents, and sustainably shimmery water- bath bombs are not only enjoyable for adults but kids love them too!
Lush makes bath products that are particularly fun for children and teens and one of our go-to “consumable” and clutter-free gifts. They have tons of bright colours and scents and I appreciate their attention to low waste packaging as well as cruelty-free and ethically-sourced ingredients (they’re one of the few brands that proudly uses child labour free mica).
A great no-waste, digital gift that can offer an audio adventure and screen-free entertainment.
Libro.fm is hands-down my favourite place to get audiobooks from, they have a fantastic variety of books and a wonderful mission to support local bookstores. You can gift individual books or a 3, 6, or 12 month subscription. They have a huge young adult selection and a well-curated assortment of kids audiobooks.
Practical and useful gifts don’t have to be boring – does the child need new pjs, a backpack, winter coat, shoes? Look for a fun option or something that really fits their style for a gift that will be sure to get a lot of use.
This is a classic experience gift and can be a fun way to make memories. Give the child coupons they can redeem for things they’ll enjoy. Here’s some ideas:
trip for ice cream
staying up late
choice of dinner
extra screen time
treat of choice
One “Big Ticket” Gift
This is what we do with my daughter – instead of everyone giving individual gifts (which often don’t align with our sustainability and minimalist values) we ask friends and family who want to give a gift to instead contribute towards one more expensive “big ticket” gift which we know she’ll love and get a lot of use from! This has been a fantastic way to keep gifts in our home more sustainable and minimalist while also being able to get some very special and well loved toys.
Trying to do this for a birthday party? Look into throwing a Fiver Party!
If you are the gift giver and want to go this route, ask the parent if there is something the child is saving up for and if you can get a gift card and contribute towards that, or if there is a special item you and some other people could buy together.
Thrifting in person is always an adventure, and with so many online thrift stores and apps now available, purchasing used clothing has never been easier. Online options make secondhand shopping more accessible and considerably less frustrating if you are having trouble finding your size. For the best success, choose items with photos showing all sides of the garment, list measurements, type of material and condition.
Below is a guide to second-hand shopping online to help find your next preloved treasure. Happy browsing!
Poshmark is a very popular and user-friendly website and app for secondhand items. Sellers and buyers have easy communication between them and it is simple to find specific items through their search functions. You can sort item searches by item type, brand, price range, condition and shipping.
Selling items is made easy with printable shipping labels and payment processing built into the app.
-The Breakdown- Great for: Women, Men, Kids, Accessories, Home, Pets, Designer Available In: United States, Canada, Australia Size Range: XXS – 5X; petite, plus, maternity, junior
Can you sell your clothes? Yes, through their app. While it is free to list items, Poshmark does take a fee from any sales.
Vinted is a European website and app focused on peer to peer sales. It has the feel of a social media app with the organization and details of retail websites. Buyers can message sellers to see more photos, ask questions and finalize a sale. The app features an icon to save favourites to your board for inspiration or to save for later. You can sort item searches by item type, condition, proximity to you, colour and price.
There is a comment section on each item page where buyers can ask questions publicly for the seller to answer about the product. Selling items is made easy with printable shipping labels and payment processing built into the app.
-The Breakdown- Great for: Women, Men, Kids & Baby, Accessories, Shoes, Beauty, Toys & Games Available In: UK, United States, Canada, Europe Size Range: XXXS – 3XL; No other size filters available.
Can you sell your clothes? Yes, through their app. It is free to list items and Vinted does not take any fees on sales.
thredUP is a thrift and consignment shop website that focuses on designer clothing and recognizable brands, as well as very affordable sales, with some items advertised as less than $5. You are purchasing from the website directly, and will not have contact with the original seller.
If you’re looking to clean out your closet with some kickbacks, but aren’t as concerned about making money from your items, thredUP will send you a bag to fill up and sell them on your behalf.
-The Breakdown- Great for: Women, Shoes, Accessories, Kids, Designer Available In: United States, Canada Size Range: XXS – 5XL; petite, plus, maternity, junior, tall
Can you sell your clothes?Sort of – thredUP functions like a consignment shop, where the company assigns the cost of items that sell and will pay you through cash or credit, or you can donate to charitable partners. Currently only available to residents of the United States.
Thrifted is a London, UK based clothing website that focuses on designer, vintage and retro pieces. They focus on styles from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s as well as sportswear. Items are priced higher than other thrift stores and are often based on brand recognition. You’ll find unique and trendy vintage pieces rather than primarily new fast fashion, as found on many other websites.
-The Breakdown- Great for: Mens and Women’s Vintage, Designer, Sportswear Available In: UK, Europe, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and more Size Range: XXS – 3XL; some categories only list up to an XL. No other size filters available.
Depop is an app based second-hand clothing platform that has the look and functionality of social media apps like Instagram. Searching for specific items is more difficult than other apps, as each seller might list items differently and you may need to message them for more information. You can search by brands and item type, and you’ll see suggested or similar items pop up as well to customize your feed.
They offer a payment system or allow you to use Paypal, and the seller is responsible for shipping.
-The Breakdown- Great for: Womens, Mens, Jewelry, Accessories, Art, Home, Beauty, Kids, and more Available In: UK, United States, Canada, Europe, International Size Range: XXS – 4XL; some categories only list up to certain sizes. No other size filters available.
Can you sell your clothes? Yes. It is free to list items through their app. When it sells, Depop takes 10% of the sale.
Swap is a US based online consignment shop that focuses primarily on fast fashion with some designer clothing. Clothing can be filtered by material, colour, brand, condition, and price for easy searching. You are purchasing from the website directly, and will not have contact with the original seller.
Sellers are subject to the consignment fees, but are able to print prepaid labels for easy shipping within the United States.
-The Breakdown- Great for: Women, Men, Kids & Baby, Shoes Available In: United States Size Range: XXS – 4X; plus, short, long, petite, maternity, juniors
Can you sell your clothes?Sort of – Swap functions like a consignment shop, where the company assigns the cost of items that sell and will pay you through cash or credit, or you can donate to charitable partners. Fees depend on the price of the sale, cash or credit methods and processing charges.
Beyond Retro is a UK based vintage clothing company that features used and up-cycled garments. While shipping is available worldwide, there are also store fronts available to UK based customers, as well as options to shop online and pick up in store. You’ll find unique and trendy vintage pieces rather than primarily new fast fashion, as found on many other websites.
The website lists garment measurements, condition and fabrics for each garment, and also provides sorting by era and brand.
-The Breakdown- Great for: Women, Men, Sportswear, Accessories, Shoes, Vintage, Designer Available In: UK, United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, International Size Range: XS – XL; many sizes are estimated due to the nature of vintage and specific garment measurements are available.
Netflea functions like an online flea market for European customers and sellers. Sellers send items to a warehouse, where they are then sent to the buyer. Buyers can order multiple items from multiple sellers and receive their items in one parcel. Items are listed with size, colour, brand and condition.
-The Breakdown- Great for: Womens, Mens, Childrens, Accessories, Shoes, Sport Equipment, Designer Available In: Europe Size Range: XXS – 5XL; No other size filters available.
Can you sell your clothes? Yes, you will send items directly to the warehouse, which will then be sent to the buyer.
Patagonia is well known for crafting products that are aimed to work for life, and their Worn Wear project continues this by reselling used items that no longer serve the purchaser. Although only based in the United States right now, they are looking to expand the resale program. Items found on the Worn Wear website tend to be durable, high quality pieces such as jackets, fleece sweaters and gear, and they choose not to resell t-shirts, swimwear, socks and underwear.
-The Breakdown- Great for: Womens, Mens, Kids & Baby, Gear; all items are used Patagonia brand Available In: United States Size Range: XXS – XXL
Can you sell your clothes?Sort of – Only Patagonia products are accepted for resale. The company will inspect each item and assign it a value if it fits their quality standards. You will be paid in credit once your items sell, which can be used on their websites or in their stores (US only).
Want to inspire your little one to be a do-gooder? Here’s how.
From doing something good for a neighbour to being part of a charitable cause – your kids are not too young to show and share good will. You can teach them to have an altruistic nature from when they’re old enough to walk. This will benefit you, them and the world around them.
Teaching kids to do things for others just because helps them develop strong core values and create strong bonds and connections with other humans from a young age.
Here are some ideas for kids of different ages:
Ages 2 to 4
Encourage them to include other kids who may be playing alone.
Let them help you choose canned goods and other non-perishables from your food cupboard to take to your local food bank.
Let them help you sort the recycling.
Print ‘thank you’ cards for them to color in and give to people who have helped them in any small way.
Teach them to donate to charity with a coin jar for donations and one for treats. Once they’re both full, the money gets donated to charity (or used to buy something for someone in need) and your child gets a treat too.
Let them help you hang bird feeders in the garden.
Ages 5 to 7
Have them recognise toys that they no longer play with and ask them to donate it to a community centre or even organize a toy drive.
If your child has long enough hair, consider donating it once they’ve decided they’d like a haircut.
Teach them how to make pet toys for cats and dogs and donate them to animal shelters along with food and any other items they might need.
If you’re having a birthday party or any kind of celebration, ask your child to head up a donation drive amongst your guests for a cause they care about.
Have them set up a lemonade stand or sell homemade cookies (or any other cool thing they can make) to raise money for their charity. Have them create a sign telling people what they’re doing and why too.
Have them help you clear out old books and donate to your local library, or even start a neighbourhood book swap right on your front lawn! Like these Little Libraries.
Color and write ‘get well soon’ cards for older residents at hospitals.
Let them participate in fun runs and 5Ks with you for charity.
Ages 8 and Up
Organise a beach clean up or local park clean up near you with friends and family.
Teach your child about endangered species and find out which species are endangered in your state. Have your child choose an animal and then draw a card and write a letter together to your local leaders as well as congressional leaders to support conservation policies that protect this species.
Ask them to start a school supplies drive with their friends and family for kids in need at their own school and others in different areas. You can visit the Kids in Need Foundation to find out how you both can help.
Get them to donate clothes they no longer wear along with personal care items for a Refugee Hope Box. They can also write a nice letter. Find a free label to ship donations at OperationRefugeeChild.org.
Let them offer to help a neighbour with housework or to rake their lawn for nothing in exchange.
Collect and deliver supplies to neighbors who have just had a baby, undergone surgery, or are house bound with an illness.
Start a community garden.
Organise a neighbourhood garage sale and donate the proceeds to charity.
Do you have any other ideas on how to get kids to volunteer? Tell us!
The best thing is first look into local textile recycling options. Some cities will have textile collection streams or some thrift stores/charity shops do also partner with textile recyclers for worn out and unsalable pieces, but be sure to first check that this is the case so the items aren’t just ending up in the trash!
If you can’t find anything more local then I:CO partners can also be an option.
This is the most common one I get asked about – what to do with old underwear? You might think they’re garbage, but they can actually be recycled!
Knickey has has a recycling program where they’ll take back their own undies, as well as underwear, bras, and socks from any brands (including men’s & kid’s underwear). They get shredded up and turned into usable products like insulation and industrial textiles. Plus as a thank-you for recycling, they’ll give you a free pair of organic cotton undies!
Unfortunately this service is currently only available in the US but if you know of any programs in other countries please share them in the comments.
If you have new or gently worn bras and lingerie you can send them to The Bra Recyclers who collect and distribute them those in need.
If your bras are worn out, then also check out Knickey’s program mentioned above.
These are unfortunately something that gets worn through quite fast and are rarely in good condition for secondhand use.
First, don’t forget about cobblers and shoe repair! If a heel or sole is worn down, you can often easily get them repaired for longer wear.
If shoes are beyond repair then Terra Cycle offers a shoe collection and recycling box however it is quite expensive (maybe something to try getting your workplace to invest in?). For a free option, many I:CO partners do accept shoes but make sure you double check.
Any brand of athletic sneakers can be dropped of at Nike stores for recycling where they are turned into things like gym floors, carpet underlays, or used in the outsoles of new shoes.
Purses & Bags
Like with shoes, many parts of purses can be repaired, so look into that first.
For this one I unfortunately couldn’t find any programs that accept worn out purses and bags. Although if they are made from fabric you can sometimes remove any hardware and recycle them through textile recycling channels. For leather/vegan leathers the best options I’ve found so far is upcycling.
Bonus – Contact Lenses
Not clothing, but I wanted to also share this one because it’s something most people don’t know about – in Canada you can recycle any brand of contact lenses at participating eye care professionals through a partnership with Bausch + Lomb and TerraCycle.
Through the Brand (take back)
Some slow fashion brands also have take-back recycling programs for their own clothes and products, this is good to make note of when purchasing an item and also great to support brands with circularity initiatives!
My bathroom has been the most difficult room to transition to sustainable products. So many items that we use every day are either sold in plastic containers or made with harsh chemicals, but your bathroom is not a place to overlook when working to reduce your carbon footprint. In fact, there are some easy switches you can make today to minimize your amount of bathroom waste. Below are some products to help you get started!
Consciously Curly has just about every haircare product you could ask for—from washing to styling. Their website is organized by hair type so you can easily find the best products for you whether you have straight, wavy or curly hair. They offer shampoo and conditioner bars as well as aluminum packaging to eliminate the use of plastic.
If you aren’t ready to make the jump to shampoo bars, Plaine Products may be a better option for you. They offer various hair products that come in metal bottles that can be returned and reused. They also have a subscription service that will send you refills automatically.
Are you looking to replace your plastic razor? Leaf Shave offers a few different razor and shaving kit options depending on your specific needs. They also package and ship 100% plastic-free to aggressively offset the carbon footprint of the company.
More than one billion toothpaste tubes are thrown out every year: Bite is trying to change that. These toothpaste “bits” will dissolve into foam while you brush. They also have a subscription service and will send your refill in 100% home compostable pouches.
If you’re not into tablets, Nelson Naturals offers a typical toothpaste formula that comes in a small glass bottle making it a zero-waste product. They also offer a wide range of flavors such as Spearmint, Citrus Spice, and Cinnamon to satisfy any taste buds.
Many mouthwash brands use chemical and artificial colors which can be harmful if accidentally swallowed. This isn’t the case for Dr. H & Co. products! Their ingredients are sourced by a family-owned company specializing in botanicals, making the product vegan and gluten-free. The product also comes in a glass bottle to reduce the use of plastic.
You can replace almost anything in your bathroom with Marley’s Monsters sustainable products but my personal favorite has been their washable facial rounds. Each round has a 3-inch diameter and is made of 100% organic cotton flannel, making it perfect for removing makeup.
If you really want to get crazy, the company also offers reusable toilet paper (!) and cloth napkins for your kitchen.
This is a sustainability-first company with so many soap bar options you’re bound to find something that you love. Their soaps are made of all natural ingredients with its base blend being plant-based oils. All of their bars come packaged in plantable paper. The soap product I’ve listed is wrapped with paper [tested and approved by the USDA] that grows into wildflowers!
Reel is working to eliminate the threat of illness posed by a lack of access to toilets. How are they doing this? Toilet paper made out of bamboo. Bamboo is the fastest growing plant in the world and does not have to be repeatedly planted. Reel is also promoting the use of earth-friendly, sustainable paper products by using no plastic, inks or dyes in their packaging.
Looking for sustainable menswear? You’re in the right place!
I used to be someone who didn’t think much about the impact of my clothing choices, however the more I learned about sustainability and ethics in the apparel industry, the more I realized how important it was to start shifting my priorities from the funny/ironic T-shirt realm to the funny-ironic sustainable T-shirt realm. Seriously though, pretty much anything I wore in the before-times was very easy to find replacements for (as they wore out) from an ethical and sustainable clothing brand. Plus it simply feels good to support businesses trying to do better in the world over brands you know are causing harm to people and the planet.
It’s mostly women’s clothing covered when it comes to slow fashion, but there are also some fantastic, comfortable, functional, and stylish options for men!
I have also always been a big supporter of secondhand clothing which is another very sustainable way to shop but it’s not always possible to find what I need, so here’s a review of some of my favorite brands and a roundup of sustainable, ethical, and comfortable men’s clothing and shoes:
If you’d not only like to get a product made in fair working conditions and with sustainable materials, but also to give back to the environment, Tentree is one to check out! It might sound a bit gimmicky, but they actually plant 10 trees for every piece they sell – though that’s only one part of their overall effort to become “the most environmentally progressive brand on the planet”.
I’m amazed at how often I see people, and especially men, wearing Tentree around the city, which is a great indicator that this is a sustainable clothing brand making it’s way into the mainstream.
They are one of my go-to brands, offering clothing in a variety of casual styles made from sustainable materials. I have a some staples from them, including tees, sweats, pants, shorts, and hoodies.
-The Breakdown- Products: casual wear, accessories Conscious Highlights: B Corp certified, strict code of conduct for manufacturing, sustainable materials Size range: SM – XXL Ordering: based in Canada, ships to North America, EU, UK, and some international
I only own a handful of sweaters, but this one will always be my favourite (and likely will be with me for my lifetime). There’s nothing quite like wearing a thick, soft, and high quality wool sweater on a chilly day.
Not only is this a stylish and timeless sweater, but the wool comes from sheep that Isobel Davies (Izzy Lane’s founder) rescues from the meat industry, to live the remainder of their lives on her farm in peace. The pandemic has slowed production for their menswear, but they will still be producing some men’s pieces in the future.
-The Breakdown- Products: sweaters, outerwear, accessories, rugs Conscious Highlights: made in the UK, natural & some undyed materials Size range:SM – XL Ordering:based in the UK, ships worldwide
Knowledge Cotton Apparel puts sustainability first, and has a long list of certifications to back them up. They carry a large selection of organic and recycled casual wear.
This is by far my favourite jacket – it has a removeable insulated inner layer that doubles as it’s own light jacket, while the outer layer can be used as a standalone rain jacket with it’s water resistant waxed cotton exterior.
-The Breakdown- Products: casual wear, basics, accessories Conscious Highlights:GOTS, GRS, OCS, KCA, Carbon Neutral certifications (as well as others) Size range:S – XXXL Ordering:based in Denmark, ships worldwide
Kotn makes great basics while improving the lives and farms of their farmers in Egypt and Portugal through direct trading practices, guaranteed pricing, and a goal to help all their farms grow 100% organic cotton within the next 5 years. They also give back to the communities they work with by building schools, which help educate their children and narrow the poverty and gender gap.
Kotn is another great one for wardrobe staples and I like that they offer both classic and interesting colour options.
-The Breakdown- Products: casual wear, basics Conscious Highlights: B Corp certified, responsible trade and manufacturing practices Size range: XS – XXL Ordering: based in Canada, ships worldwide
Mud Jeans not only makes great organic jeans, but they take great effort to save water during their manufacturing process (via water recycling and innovative washing techniques at their factories, which saves over 90% of water vs. typical denim industry use) and are frontrunners in denim circularity – recycling used jeans into new ones.
The jeans I’ve had for around 5 years now have held up great to many miles of travel, and they’ve been wonderfully comfortable as well with the small amount of elastane in them!
-The Breakdown- Products: denim pants and jackets Conscious Highlights: GOTS Certified, zero waste, carbon neutral, circular Size range:28×32 – 38×34 Ordering:based in the Netherlands, ships worldwide except UK
They manufacture high quality denim, sewn locally, and are a Canadian brand I love to support because they are located in my city. Although they don’t carry sustainability certifications, I’ve focused on purchasing a great quality staple which will last for years, as locally as possible, and a huge benefit is I can drop my jeans off for repairs and alterations at Arturo which is another great sustainable practice.
-The Breakdown- Products: jeans, T-shirts Conscious Highlights: great quality and long lasting products, in-house sewing, tailoring, and repairs Size range: 28×32 – 42×36 Ordering: based in Canada, ships worldwide
Most of my days are spent wearing t-shirts and hoodies, and the ones I’ve owned from ARMEDANGELS have always pulled through as a comfortable and good-quality option. They produce a solid variety of casual wear all while using eco-friendly materials, actively working to reduce their climate impact, and maintaining fair manufacturing practices.
-The Breakdown- Products: casual wear, basics, accessories Conscious Highlights: GOTS certified, sustainable/regenerative materials, Fairtrade/Fairwear Size range: SM – XXL Ordering: based in Germany, ships worldwide
I like wearing belts – In fact I usually need to wear belts, due to my complete lack of hips or butt. Nearly every belt I’ve worn in my lifetime have been generally OK, but I started noticing little holes in my t-shirts right in the area of the location of my belt buckle and realized that the holes were caused by carrying heavy things that push against the buckle. Unbelts are not only really comfortable and easy to adjust, but they are one of the only belt options I’ve found that prevent the holes forming on my shirt due to the extremely flat, non-bulky clasp!
They’re also a very conscious company who are striving to be leaders in sustainability and social responsibility. They’re a certified B corp, use recycled/diverted materials, focus on minimizing waste, and design for circularity. I also use their reuseable cloth masks which are great and very comfortable.
-The Breakdown- Products: belts, masks Conscious Highlights: B corp certified, recycled materials, circular design, socially responsible Size range: children’s, plus 24″-58″ hips (belts), S/M/L masks Ordering: based in Canada, ships worldwide
Nudie has a very long list of sustainable initiatives including using organic fairtrade & recycled materials, selling repaired/reused jeans, lifetime repairs to your jeans for free, and a long list of UN sustainable development goals. They use 100% organic cotton throughout their garments, and produce a wide variety of sizes and styles. The Nudie Jeans T-shirt I’ve owned for many years is one of my favourites, and I plan to try out their jeans when my current ones eventually wear out.
-The Breakdown- Products: jeans, casual wear, basics, accessories Conscious Highlights: sustainable materials, free denim repairs forever, strict code of conduct/ethics, leading members of Fair Wear Foundation Size range: 24″-38″ waist, 28″-36″ length (depending on jeans), XS-XXL other garments Ordering: based in Sweden, ships worldwide
Organic Basics is a company with sustainability at it’s core – even their website is designed to be low-impact! They make really comfortable basics using carefully selected sustainable fabrics, use seamless knitting to increase durability and stretch of fabrics, and work with certified factories. They offer a wide variety of basics (hence the name), including some with non-nano silver polymer blends to help control odour.
-The Breakdown- Products: basics, denim, accessories Conscious Highlights: B Corp certified, and many of their factories also have certifications such as GOTS, Oeko-Tex, SA8000 Size range: S – XXL Ordering: based in Denmark, ships worldwide
Even though I had never previously considered that I would have a favourite underwear brand, here we are. Since discovering Wama I’ve slowly been replacing my aging underwear stock with pairs of Wama’s hemp boxer briefs and I’ve got to say… they’re fantastic! I look forward to the part of the laundry cycle where I get to wear them, and am happy to report they are very sturdy while also remaining soft and extremely comfortable after many wears.
Hemp is also an anti-bacterial fabric and naturally organic which is a huge bonus, given that it’s, well, underwear. I plan to eventually replace all of my underwear with these hempen wonders.
-The Breakdown- Products: underwear Conscious Highlights: sustainable materials, consciously made in China, vegan Size range: S – 3XL Ordering: based in US, ships worldwide
Most people probably don’t think much of what kind of socks they wear. My condition for the majority of my socks is just that they’re colourful or have a fun pattern on them – why wear boring socks? Fortunately for me, Conscious Step makes a wide range of sock patterns and every unique design you choose gives back to a specific charity. They currently support 18+ causes ranging from mental health initiatives, to nature conservation, to children’s literacy and girl’s education in Asia and Africa.
-The Breakdown- Products: socks Conscious Highlights: GOTS certified, fairtrade cotton, vegan, supports many causes Size range: S – L Ordering: based in Canada, ships worldwide
As Erin talked about in her winter post, sustainable and ethically made boots are tough to find! But we both went with Kamik because of their quality, vegan options, and environmental and social initiatives.
These insulated rubber boots can hold up during -40 winters or the lining can be removed to use as a warm-weather rainboot. They’re made in Canada and Kamik’s rubber boots can actually be sent back for recycling!
-The Breakdown- Products: footwear Conscious Highlights: many recycling initiatives including recycled rubber/plastic in boots, recycled packaging, and recycled water used for cooling (during manufacturing) Size range: 7 – 15 Ordering: based in Canada (with US and EU stores), ships worldwide
Allbirds makes shoes from merino wool, Tencel, sugarcane, and other natural and responsibly sourced materials. They are also one of the only sustainable shoe brands out there that offer actual running shoes (called “Dashers”). Erin has a pair and is really happy with both their comfort and performance.
They have a bunch of sustainability initiatives, including measuring the carbon footprint of every pair of shoes they make and are working on regenerative practices.
-The Breakdown- Products: shoes, casual wear, accessories Conscious Highlights: B Corp certified, sustainable and responsibly sourced materials Size range: 8 – 14 (shoes), XS – XXXL (clothing) Ordering: stores in many countries, ships worldwide
Skye makes a collection of shoes with a primary focus on recycled materials and some biodegradability. I always prefer a slip-on style shoe, so their laceless tying system is right up my alley, and who even likes tying shoes anyways? They’re a relatively new company, but seem like a promising brand who is trying to focus on sustainability and recyclability while producing high quality footwear you’ll actually like wearing.
The Breakdown- Products: sneakers, boots Conscious Highlights: recyclable materials, transparent supply chain Size range: 4 – 13 Ordering: based in Canada, ships to US and some international locations
We’re told from a young age that recycling is easy and a great way for us to help the planet, but unfortunately in reality it’s more complicated than it seems. Sometimes the way we recycle and the items we recycle can actually do more harm than good.
In this post we’ll cover two aspects of recycling that are important to understand so that we can all recycle better, reduce the waste we send to landfill, and overall have a more sustainable and responsible approach to waste.
What is Wish-Cycling?
Have you ever had a moment of panic in front of your garbage and recycling bins, unsure which one an item should go into? Most of us have faced this dilemma, and have opted for the recycling bin, because we think that it’s still better than assuming everything is garbage, even if it isn’t actually recyclable. This is a common problem that is resulting in major issues for recycling facilities across the globe.
This is wish-cycling – the hope that if we put something in the recycling rather than the garbage, that we are still doing the right thing, even if it isn’t supposed to go in there. Wish-cycling is a result of a lack of information and resources about the waste systems where we live, and in some cases, we’re just guessing after a hard day. However, it’s more than an annoyance at recycling facilities where materials are sorted – it can be extremely dangerous for workers, machines and our environment.
In my city, we have a few recycling options offered by our government:
Bring designated recyclables to recycling depots comprised of blue bins and put items in individual bins (i.e. paper, cardboard, plastic bags, cans and bottles)
Place recyclables into a blue bag that is picked up on garbage day
Bring hazardous recyclable materials to facilities called Eco-Stations, where items are sorted by type and stored safely (i.e. lightbulbs, paint, batteries, chemicals, metal, electronics)
Contamination & Hazards
Each facility is designed to accept specific kinds of materials in specific conditions, and anything that doesn’t belong can contaminate everything it’s stored with. For example, cans are recyclable in our blue bags, and will be sorted by workers when they arrive at our municipal recycling facility. A wet can with chunks of soup in it is not only gross to deal with, it will likely get all of the other materials in the blue bag wet and contaminated, making everything in that bag instant garbage. Workers sorting these items are forced to stop and throw everything in that bag/batch away.
The recycling industry is just that, an industry. It relies on good quality materials that can be dealt with efficiently and sold to companies that will recycle those materials into new items. The industry simply doesn’t have the time, money or capacity to clean a dirty can of soup when there are thousands of pounds of materials coming in everyday.
Beyond contamination, there are real dangers of putting certain items into a recycling stream not built for them. Items like lightbulbs, batteries or chemicals can break or leak, which is very dangerous when workers are sorting items by hand, even if they are wearing gloves and PPE. Older electronics with stringy parts (cassette tapes, VHS’s, string lights) can cause jams in machinery that is not meant to deal with them, creating major facility shutdowns or potentially permanently breaking machines.
Learn what can Actually be Recycled
While it may seem obvious to some of us which items are recyclable and how to recycle properly, there are some things that aren’t so clear. For example, a paper coffee cup seems straightforward – if it’s paper, it should be recyclable. However, the majority of coffee cups are not recyclable because of their thin plastic liner. It’s not obvious that it’s lined with plastic when you look at it, and it unfortunately makes these cups incredibly difficult to recycle.
I have seen first hand that other items can be confusing; I once had a roommate who put eggshells in our blue bag and genuinely didn’t know that they were not recyclable. To this day I’m still not sure what he thought egg-shells would be turned into at a recycling facility. This is where staying informed, reading up-to-date changes about recycling in our communities and passing on information about recycling is crucial to making recycling sustainable and effective.
Every city, town, county and country has different recycling facilities, rules and systems. At this point, there is no ‘catch-all’ recycling system, and therefore it is imperative that we are familiar with the rules and facilities that apply to our specific community. Doing a quick search of your city/town name with the word ‘recycling’ will likely bring up the information you’re looking for. Many municipal websites offer printable guides, videos, and some even have apps where you can plug in the item you’re unsure about, and it will tell you exactly what to do with it. One issue I’ve noticed lately is generic posts on social media promoting recycling of certain items, without stating where they live and the caveat that users should double-check if their area also recycles that item. I love that social media is a tool to promote recycling, but we need to be mindful that unless we are only following folks who live in our city/town, the information they are sharing might not apply the same way to us.
Even if a certain item is not recycled in your area, there may still be options. TerraCycle has some awesome programs (varying by country), to send certain items back to them in a box to be properly recycled. Programs like TerraCycle are great for businesses, workplaces and households to take part in. Some stores also offer recycling for specific items that they sell or offer, such as plastic bag recycling.
The key is to see what is already available in your community, and if an item isn’t recycled by your government, to do a quick search online and see if another program exists that is accessible to you.
There is power in sharing information in an easily accessible way. This might be as simple as printing off a recycling guide from your city and posting it on a refrigerator or bulletin board. It might mean downloading an app for your parents or older relatives and showing them how it works, so that the information is at their fingertips. It’s great to share images and messages from social media curated by/for your city and town to spread the word digitally. One of the easiest things you can do at home is to make dedicated, labelled containers for sorting special recyclables. Coffee cans, boxes and ice cream pails are fantastic for sorting items like batteries, lightbulbs, and electronics, and make taking them to the recycling facility easy and fun, especially if you get your family involved.
For more information on the dangers and negative impacts of wish-cycling, click here and here.
Feeling comfortable with how to recycle effectively? That’s great, but, and there’s always a but – are you familiar with downcycling?
What is Downcycling?
Are all recyclable materials able to be recycled over and over again? Yes and no, it’s complicated. Realistically it depends on the material.
Aluminium (think soda and beer cans), steel and glass can be recycled over and over again – basically forever. While aluminum mining involves resource extraction which can have varying impacts on land and ecosystems, the good news is that by properly recycling it, we have a high quality material with an infinite lifespan – which in theory should reduce the amount of new aluminum produced in the future.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said for plastic and paper. These products are downcycled, meaning that a once ‘virgin’ product can only be recycled a certain number of times before it is unusable as a raw material, and it’s final form will not be recyclable. Plastic and paper is easily contaminated and begins to break down after being reprocessed multiple times. For example, plastic water bottles can only be recycled, at most, a couple of times before they are no longer usable as a recognizable ‘plastic’ type material. However, you likely have plastic water bottles ‘hidden’ throughout your home in the form of fibre. This could look like carpets, rugs, pillow cases, insulation, or fleece. Many clothing companies recycle water bottles into clothing, like Girlfriend Collective. It is definitely an inventive way to use recycled materials to make a new product, and it’s a great initiative that many companies are buying into now.
However, the truth about downcycling is it is not a circular loop – there is an end of life of any item material that is downcycled. Garment recycling is rare – my municipality, and the majority of my country does not have any textile recycling infrastructure, and it doesn’t seem like we’ll get it anytime soon. Have a torn up fleece jacket? Well, it’s most likely bound for landfill unless you have a creative way to use the scraps. Upcycling is one creative way of reusing textile waste, such as using old clothes and textiles for stuffing pillows, making dog beds or stuffed toys.
Considering the sheer quantity of plastic used and produced globally, it would be idealistic to assume that every piece of plastic will be downcycled and that every downcycled item will be used until it’s end of life, and then reused as something else. Inevitably, most of it will be going to landfill at some point, or processed through other waste systems like bio-fuel. So while it’s great to purchase items that are products of downcycling, rather than an item made of virgin plastic or paper, keep in mind that the item will also have a finite end of its usable life.
Remember to reduce, reuse and then recycle in that order.
The more we focus on reducing our waste in general and taking the time to fix, or upcycle items we already own, the less we will have to send to landfill and recycling centres. And if you choose to use a recycled product that is bound for downcycling, consider finding a way to upcycle it once it’s reached its end of usable life.
This was actually one of the questions I asked myself when the world went into lockdown during the last week of March in 2020. I was so busy doing, I had completely disconnected from myself. I had neglected my core needs and self-care in the process, and had slowly damaged my holistic health AND the future of my projects.
The COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to my zero waste lifestyle when I evacuated my zero waste hostel in Rajasthan, Hara House, having to make an executive call for the future of the social enterprise. We had to close. It was clear we wouldn’t survive what was next. Today, I’m glad I made that call, but me a year ago, I was devastated.
As someone who has always been deeply rooted in my activism for social and environmental justice, I remember feeling so stuck. I couldn’t DO. How was I going to prove to myself that I was an activist and someone doing good in this world? How was I going to combat climate change and advocate for anti-oppression work if I couldn’t DO?
When the lockdown swept across India, I was in Chandigarh without the resources I needed to survive more than a month, lacking access to essential services. Unlike many countries, India’s lockdown was abruptly announced leaving millions of people, specifically migrant workers, with no transportation, no work, and nowhere to go due to strict state border movement.
For the first time in almost 10 years, I was forced to remain still. And that just wasn’t my style.
My husband and I had only been married a month. We had just put a deposit in on a house in Mumbai. I was working towards opening our third Hara House property. All of that was taken away as we rummaged through the store room, analysing how many days our current supply of vegetables and pulses would last us. We estimated 30 days.
Do note that I am well aware of how privileged I was during this time because I had access to food, shelter, and family.
It took about two weeks before we were able to access what we needed. City buses came into each sector of the city filled with vegetables for purchase. A few corner stores opened up to offer essentials. Things calmed down as we got a hold of what we needed, but the restriction of movement was terrifying, and here I was whining about my coffee coming in a plastic jar.
My husband and I would try to get out for morning walks when curfew ended at 9am. I remember drones flying overhead, watching us as we walked around the Gurudwara with masks on, not a single soul in sight. I remember trying to get a run in around 5pm at the park across the street only to be stopped and scolded by police.
My connection to self was slowly disappearing. I needed to do something, but I didn’t have anything to say or do because the world was totally consumed (and so was I). As a result, I let Facebook Ads take over my life. I took up Zumba to stay active and started teaching my community online. I played the Sims for a good week straight (yes, I’m 28-years-old). I wrote, started a new platform, tried to keep podcasting, but then I sunk into a depression. My body was exhausted and it had been for a long time.
We live in the age and culture of “busy”. We decide our worth based on what we accomplish in this world and are made to feel if we don’t share and scream our accomplishments to others, we have no worth. However, it’s not until we slow down and really reflect on everything we’ve done, and everything we’re working towards, that we realize how individual and spiritual this process is. We don’t have to say “yes” to everything. It’s actually better for our holistic health to say “NO” to what doesn’t align with where our paths are taking us. But, excitement and opportunity often get the best of us and can harm our journey to restoration, rest, and connecting with our inner self to truly identify our needs.
I remember exactly how intense it felt when my body just kept saying “NO” to me. I didn’t want to get out of bed most days. I would make the same foods over and over again – literally eggs and toast. I had fallen into a consumer trap, only able to buy foods in plastic, forgetting my values completely. My mother-in-law’s health was a concern as well. She stayed in her room all day away from us in case we were already infected, or received the infection when we left the house for groceries.
It took a good few months of me trying to figure out what’s next, which I won’t walk you through, but it landed me here a year later and I couldn’t be more grateful (and actively working towards not putting “busy” on a pedestal).
After severe lockdowns, no community, no entertainment outside of Netflix (and The Sims), no projects running, and tourism gone, my husband and I moved to a small town in the mountains to truly practice what we had learned during this time.
And now, I’m sharing it with you (very vulnerably) as we enter another wave of the pandemic. I hope it communicates as a dose of inspiration and mutual support for a community so fueled by human connection, sustainability, and justice.
This past year in isolation taught me how to escape the loop of always doing and actually focus, nurture my health, and be present with my family.
To get here, I believe these four teachings have supported me in nurturing a truly conscious lifestyle where I’m not just focusing on being conscious in action, but also being conscious in thought.
Lean less on the left
Did you also get caught up in all the same COVID news and contradicting stories puncturing your thinking cycle, drowning you in “what ifs”? Me too.
That’s when I realized the only way to get out of the cycle was to get creative. I scheduled time in my day to dance, sing, write, run, Zumba, color, do handstands, and bring a smile to my mother-in-law’s face during such an uncertain time. It was so important for me to flex the right side of my brain instead of constantly leaning on the left, trying to make logical sense of everything that was happening and what I should do next.
The reason I want to emphasize this is because when we’re constantly being triggered and delivered information we can’t quite dysifer, our mental health spirals into harmful cycles. In order for us to do any of the work we want to do in this world, especially around sustainability and justice, we have to ensure our mind, body, and soul are nurtured first. Letting our creativity flow is a huge part of our development.
Embrace digital activism
I know many of us are struggling with how to effectively use our platforms to address injustice. The space is crowded with conflict. It’s hard to be so vulnerable online. It feels like you aren’t making a difference because it’s just a few words and graphics on a social platform.
I want you to write down all the reasons you’re feeling blocked by digital activism and literally burn them. Your digital activism IS a HUGE part of the future of activism, no matter the size of your audience. It’s how we can continually make a difference during such a chaotic time.
Yes, there is censorship and you may be unfollowed, but if what you’re doing feels right and helps you in pushing forward an equal, just agenda, you’re doing the work that is so needed in the world.
My tips for online activism have always been:
Stay educated: Know both sides of the story and cover what you feel is right to share with sourced facts and resources. It is also OKAY to cry, get emotional, and feel the feels with your community.
Approach everything with compassion: Think like a teacher, or a guide for that matter, sharing the information that you would like others to consider in forming their own opinion, instead of shoving yours down their throat. I know this is hard when addressing issues such as white supremacy, but remember most people don’t realize they are perpetrators until you lay out the facts.
Include a specific call-to-action: Do you want your community to donate to a cause? Read a specific article? Talk to their community representatives? Be specific so your audience knows exactly how they can help improve the situation.
Remember, words are just as powerful as actions. Make sure they are intentional and invite others in to get involved. You want to avoid isolating those who have been wrong in the past and want to make things right. You making the information accessible is just as important as protesting on the street.
You don’t always have to be perfect
Moving from a zero waste home that I had intentionally built to meet the needs of my lifestyle and my business was a massive challenge. Not only were supplies suddenly very limited, minimizing the spread of infection meant choosing sealed, packaged items over loose, bulk items.
I felt so guilty, like I had betrayed everything I stood for and everything I preached. How dare I talk the talk but not walk the walk.
It was a slow process, but I learned to forgive myself knowing that I couldn’t always be a perfect zero waster, especially with major health concerns surrounding me. During this process, I learned to become a lot more resourceful with what I had available to me. In the past, I had always loved making my own skincare products and sauces at home. Now, it was up to me to take it to the next level. It was a challenge I knew I would learn from.
As a result, I worked with plastic containers for collecting food scraps and creating a small compost to nurture my mother-in-law’s garden. Any soft plastic that was brought into the house was repurposed for other things, like storing easily damaged items such as jewelry and shoes. Mom made us homemade masks from old textiles. I even shifted my language around plastic use with my community, learning that I can’t just rage out about plastic bags when there are other matters at hand.
It may not sound like a lot, but those little things kept my spirits high knowing I was doing my part. Even if the journey was much slower, I was still doing what I could to build the future I promised to help create.
A huge reason why moving to the mountains was so crucial for us was because we wanted to farm. Having experienced food scarcity, I realized just how important it is to cultivate land so I can supply for my family and those in need in case of a, well, global pandemic.
With another COVID wave at hand, it’s important that we go back to our farming roots and remember one of the core needs for human existence and building community: food!
I encourage you all to plant as much as you can, depending on your local climate. Use your small yard, build a greenhouse, practice indoor permaculture with the natural sunlight that radiates through your home.
There is no connection more sacred than our relationship to mother earth. By continuing to give to her soil, plant, and feed our communities, we are actually fighting the status quo, showing the big guys how essential agriculture is for survival (which is my family’s way of rebelling against the government’s decision to privatize farming in India).
Revel in the power of the pause
You are allowed to pause. I forced myself to continue working my marketing job, even if it meant voluntarily taking on projects, just to stay distracted from everything else around me. It’s not something I regret, and I’m very fortunate to have income during this time, however I learned that I can’t continually distract myself when my body, mind, and soul need rest.
Investing your time and energy into your mental health, and taking rest when needed, is not something to feel guilty about. Rest and restorable is a cause for celebration. It helps you identify your core needs and feed them so you can move forward and thrive, not just survive.
I truly believe I have become more mindful by accepting the pause, realizing its power, and reveling in stillness. It has strengthened my critical thinking skills and taught me to read, absorb, and reflect, instead of just unconsciously taking in whatever is in front of me.
Taking intentional time to heal myself from the inside out has been the greatest gift I’ve ever received. I’m also so grateful for being open to receiving it. Often, we are so closed up and dedicated to our responsibilities that we neglect our own needs. Sure, I still cry when I intentionally put time aside to read the news, but the noise of “what ifs” and “what’s next?” has become merely a simmer.
I’m sure my journey is not necessarily unique, however it has brought me so much goodness and enlightenment in a dark and uncertain time. My activism and need to do is now rooted in strength and resilience. I trust my mind to say “yes” and “no” based on the needs of my body. I’m finally walking the walk again while representing how to ensure you, yourself, are nurtured while living out your purpose.
I would love to know how the pandemic has brought more intention and consciousness to your actions during this time.
What are some of the opportunities you’ve been given? What challenges have you overcome? How has your present self strengthened from the last year of uncertainty?
When we look at the positive, we continue to manifest abundance into our lives, and I truly believe in a time like this, we need to hone that energy so we can nurture ourselves, our families, and our communities.
Now as much as I wish I was the kind of mom who set up elaborate activities, I just don’t have the time so these are also easy to do with minimal planning or set-up!
This post is kindly sponsored by EarthHero which is a go-to shop for sustainable home and lifestyle goods and one of the best sites to get eco-friendly children’s products and supplies all in one place!
Play with Chalk
From hopscotch to race/agility courses, or just having fun drawing – sidewalk chalk is a wonderfully simple but creative toy!
💚 Eco-tip: This egg-shaped chalk is non-toxic, comes in plastic-free packaging, and is great for little hands.
Go on a Nature Hunt
See what types of plants, insects, and animals your child can find. Play “I Spy” or create a chart with words or images for them to mark off.
Also try a “listening hunt” – go on a walk and find and identify different sounds.
Have a Picnic
This can involve going to a park for a full meal or be as simple as laying out a blanket and having a snack! Changing things up by eating outside is always fun for kids, plus you can also involve them in packing the food up.
This is such a great way to teach kids about plants and where out food comes from!
Carrots, peas, radishes, herbs, potatoes, or flowers like nasturtiums, sunflowers, or marigolds are all easy-to-grow choices. Or re-growing food scraps such as green onions, celery, or lettuces is also great and more visible for kids.
My toddler loves going out to water the garden and check on the plants as part of our daily routine.
Dress for the weather. Having the right clothes will keep your kids comfortable. Whether it’s a hat, sunglasses, and breathable clothing for summer, rain coat and boots for rainy days, or layers and warm clothing for colder days. Check out EarthHero for sustainable clothing brands for kids and adults.
Have a packed bag with necessities. It’s so much easier to go outside when you have your bag of stuff ready to go – keep everything you typically like to bring pre-packed in a bag or backpack, then you can just add snacks, water bottles, and anything specific for the day’s plans and head out!