This post is different than the topics I typically cover, however I wanted to share my experience with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) because after being diagnosed I found hearing and reading the experiences of other women with PCOS to be invaluable. I learned so much and was able to not only manage my symptoms but also conceive a child which we’re so excited to welcome this August.
Before we get into it though, there needs to be an important disclaimer that I am not an expert, doctor, or healthcare professional. All I’m sharing is my personal experience but everyone’s body and health is different and it’s of course important to do your own research and talk to your healthcare provider about any lifestyle/diet changes, symptoms, treatments, etc.
Before Being Diagnosed
I was actually diagnosed with PCOS quite late compared to other people – about a year and a half ago when I was 29. Being diagnosed with PCOS was actually a relief to some extent; whenever I was not on birth control I had an extremely irregular period, although doctors just told me it’s normal and nothing to be concerned about.
When I was a teenager, my first doctor prescribed me the pill to make my cycle regular. Later when I transitioned off hormonal birth control to get a copper IUD my highly irregular period came back. My doctor again said it was nothing to worry about although none of my doctors ever looked into it or did any testing.
While the IUD did make my periods less irregular it still wasn’t a normal 28-day cycle but I’d been told multiple times by different doctors that it wasn’t a concern so I assumed that was just the way my body and cycle was.
Years later it was time to remove my IUD; I didn’t have a great experience with it since it made my cramps a lot worse but I also wasn’t keen on going back to hormonal birth control. I had been reading a lot about FAM (Fertility Awareness Method) and BBT (Basel body temperature) charting and since my husband and I were also discussing starting a family in the next few years it seemed like something worth trying.
Tracking your BBT is something I would highly recommend. Even though it’s not very effective as birth control if you have PCOS or an irregular cycle, I found it helpful to have that data for my diagnosis, symptom managing, and trying to conceive.
My PCOS Diagnosis
After I started BBT charting I realised exactly how extremely irregular my periods were (often 2 – 3 months apart). Also during that time we were talking more about our future family plans and so I started doing research into irregular periods, infertility, and conception. I had heard of PCOS before but all I knew was that it involved ovary cysts and knew nothing of other symptoms. My research on irregular periods pretty quickly led me to information about PCOS and the more I read about it and the symptoms it seemed to fit with many things I’d been experiencing.
I made an appointment with my Gynaecologist and when I explained to her I wanted to be tested for PCOS her immediate response was, “you don’t have PCOS” – no tests, just by looking at me she made that call.
After being told my whole life my irregular cycle was no concern I wanted some kind of explanation – I asked her why I have such highly irregular periods and being able to show her my BBT charts was helpful because she actually acknowledged they were very irregular and told me most people call a few days off irregular, not months. However even then she said that since I didn’t have other symptoms like excess weight or acne (and I’ll talk later about why I didn’t appear to have those symptoms) I didn’t have PCOS. I pushed her to see if we could just do the ultrasound anyways to make sure and she thankfully agreed.
Then I was up on the ultrasound table on her office, she beings to look around, and immediately says, “OH, your ovaries are covered in cysts!” 🤦♀️ (although it’s also important to note that you can still have PCOS without visible cysts)
So I was diagnosed with PCOS. She recommended going on the birth control pill again, which I wasn’t too keen about, and/or possibly Metformin, which I wanted to learn more about. I felt both relieved to finally have some explanation but also concerned and wanting to learn more about what dealing with PCOS might involve both for me and our family.
The first thing I did out of the doctor’s office was search “treating PCOS”. I read about the drug options but also started finding women talking about how they naturally managed their symptoms through diet and exercise. This was more up my alley and something I wanted to at least try before taking the hormones or medication for it.
One thing I learned was the relationship insulin has with PCOS and how cutting out refined sugars, white flour, and high-glycemic foods can help alleviate symptoms. I decided to jump right in and test this out – I went on a sugar-free/low GI diet for a few months. I figured even if it didn’t help my PCOS it still was a healthy thing to try.
At first it was definitely challenging to make diet adjustments and changes but I got my period the following month, the month after, and the month after that – which was unheard of for me! My BBT charts also showed quite regular cycles and I was blown away by how quickly this change took effect.
I still try to avoid sugar where possible and eat low GI, although I’m not as super-strict about it and will occasionally have treats. However I’ve had a regular cycle since I started cutting out sugar until I got pregnant and I really believe being careful with sugar was the best change I could have made for my PCOS.
Something great that also happened is after time I no longer even crave sugar. Most desserts (like these cupcakes) I know will now taste way too sweet and actually are unappealing. It’s amazing how your taste can adjust and now my ideal treat is something only very lightly sweetened or not sweet at all.
I also now have a new doctor (since we moved) and when she asked if I was taking anything or doing anything to manage my PCOS symptoms, I mentioned avoiding sugar and she confirmed that it was one of the best things you can do for PCOS and also to prevent diabetes since PCOS can increase your risk.
In addition to avoiding sugar, a lot of resources I read also recommended eating lots of whole fruits and vegetables and reducing dairy, red meat, and some other animal products.
I’ve been vegetarian since I was about 18 and over the last decade have also been eating more and more plant-based. My main reason for doing this is for a more sustainable and ethical diet, but I also noticed skin and health benefits by eating this way. I don’t know for sure, but I think this is why some of the other common PCOS symptoms like acne and weight gain didn’t show up as obviously on me, since I was already eating a pretty healthy and PCOS-friendly diet (minus paying attention to sugars).
A lot of PCOS diets also recommend prioritising anti-inflammatory foods, which again involves eating lots of whole fruits and veggies, and also making sure to get healthy fats and oils, like nuts and omega 3s. It also involves avoiding inflammatory foods like sugar, refined carbohydrates, fried foods, and lots of processed foods.
Another change I made was to make sure I had healthy snacks on hand if I got hungry, as I learned it’s important to eat regular meals so your blood sugar levels aren’t fluctuating too much.
Exercise is of course beneficial for everyone, but regular exercise along with a healthy diet seem to be the way many people successfully manage their PCOS symptoms. I used to be the kind of person who would work out when I felt like it, but reading how beneficial regular exercise was for PCOS made me commit to a more consistent exercise schedule and go for walks whenever possible.
The exercises I enjoy that work best for me are a mix of cardio on the elliptical or bike, swimming, yoga, some body-weight exercises, and walking.
I think because I’ve been consciously avoiding these chemicals over the last 5 years it’s also helped my PCOS. I can’t be sure it’s related but I know avoiding these chemicals at least is healthier and won’t make it worse.
I know my PCOS will never go away, but these changes have made me (and indirectly my husband since we workout and cook/eat together) healthier overall. I’m happy I’ve been able to avoid taking hormones or medication for it, plus making these diet and exercise changes has allowed us to start a family 💕. These changes are things I’m definitely going to prioritise and maintain for the rest of my life.
Again I want to emphasise that this is just my experience, I’m not a doctor, and it’s always important to consult your healthcare provider. I do hope though that if you are researching or struggling with PCOS you find this post helpful in some way. These are some resources you can also check out:
One of the best ways to shop more sustainably is by buying good quality pieces. Not only will they last you longer and save the waste, energy, and resources needed to replace them, but even if you stop needing the item someone else can use it as well!
I’ll be sharing some tips to help you distinguish good quality not only in clothing but in many different kinds of items. However for a really easy way to find good quality products you can check out BuyMeOnce(who kindly sponsored this post 💚). They have a huge selection of products which they’ve tested and researched to find the longest-lasting versions available, and include many brands which also have a lifetime guarantee!
Does Price = Quality?
A common assumption is that a higher price means better quality and a lower price means cheaper quality. While there definitely is some correlation and truth to “you get what you pay for” this also isn’t a universal rule. Expensive things can break right away and budget options can also be very good quality.
It’s more important to look at the product, materials, and construction than to just make assumptions about quality based on the price. Although if something seems suspiciously cheap (like a $1 t-shirt) it very likely is poor quality.
Signs to Look For
The material something is made from is a great place to start looking for signs of good or poor quality. Simply put, good quality products are made from good quality materials.
With fabrics and textiles you want to feel it and look for inconsistencies like lumps, snags, or holes. You also want to look at the weave or knit – generally it should be tight, even, and consistent (but it does depend on the style of the piece and if unique fabrics are being used for the design that are purposefully loose or inconsistent). Don’t just look at the main material either, trims and details can be a great way to check for quality – things like zippers, buttons, cords, elastics, etc. should function properly and feel durable.
For other products you want to know what materials are being used – is it solid or a mix of materials, and are the materials durable, like metals, or easier to break, like plastics.
Each product and material is unique, so do a bit of research into the materials used and whether it’s appropriate for that product and what are signs of quality specific to that material.
While good quality materials are important, if the item is poorly constructed it’s still going to fall apart. The best places to asses construction quality are the seams or where anything is joined together. For clothing and fabric products you want to look for even, straight stitches that aren’t too far apart and tight seams. For other products look at how elements are joined together – typically poorer quality items will just be glued together, maybe even messily or with glue marks, while better quality construction often utilizes more durable ways of fastening such as screws.
I also think it’s helpful to inspect the “hidden” part of the item – so turn it inside out, look underneath or at the areas you don’t easily see, for example the lining of a garment or the underside of a piece of furniture. If these areas also look well constructed and finished that’s a great sign.
Products that are easy to repair are a better investment (and more sustainable) than products that need to be completely replaced.
Check for brands that offer repair information or that sell kits/replacement components, or to make it really easy look for brands that will take care of any repairs for you or offer lifetime guarantees – BuyMeOnce is a great platform to find brands with lifetime guarantees and repair policies.
iFixit can also be a helpful resource, especially for electronics, to see how easy it is to repair or replace parts with certain products. They even give a “repairability” rating to products.
Finally reviews are a great way to help determine good vs. poor quality products, especially when shopping online. It’s pretty straight forward: if a lot of people are commenting on the good quality or how long it’s lasted that’s great! Otherwise if there are a lot of comments about the item breaking or the poor quality, it’s probably better to look for another option.
While I don’t want to promote shopping through Amazon (you can read Ethical Unicorn’s great post for more info about why) it can be a good place to find a lot of reviews. For example we’re in the process of slowly figuring out what baby gear we’ll need for the new addition to our family this year; unfortunately BuyMeOnce doesn’t (yet) have cribs or car seats, so reading reviews on sites like Amazon has been helpful to find which brands/models are high quality and long-lasting. It can really pay off in the long-run to take a little time to read reviews both when buying new and secondhand products.
Make it Easy
BuyMeOnce is an incredibly helpful resource to easily find good quality products. The online shopping platform includes everything from clothing and accessories, to kitchenware, electronics, and lifestyle products. Their 2000+ featured products go through independent research and testing and each one meets their 5 criteria:
While it can take some extra time and maybe cost more to find and invest in good quality products, it actually pays off long-term because you’ll save time and money having to replace those items less often (or maybe never again!). Plus in our very “disposable” culture you’re taking the much more sustainable route and saving resources, energy, and waste by buying long-lasting products.
I know bras can be challenging to find – sustainable and ethical bras even more difficult, and if like me you wear a “non-standard” size (for reference I typically wear a 30E) it can seem impossible. So I have not only a video reviewing some of the bras I own, but also a roundup of some eco-friendly brands. 💚
Please note: this post contains some affiliate links, purchasing through affiliate links give me a small % commission and helps support My Green Closet.
Hands-down my favourite bra is Lara Intimates’ Wren style. It’s my go-to bra and I love it so much I now have it in two colours! All their bras are lovely (I also have the Ava style) and I really like the mesh designs. Lara Intimates uses surplus fabrics and notions from other lingerie brands and manufactures everything in-house in their London studio. They have a great “find my size” tool and the largest size range I’ve seen from a conscious brand – plus plans to expand it further! I also have a post more about Lara and how to measure yourself and order a bra online.
-The Breakdown- Products: wire-free bras & briefs Conscious Highlights: reclaimed materials, made in-house, made-to-order, zero fabric waste, body-inclusive models Size range: 26A – 36I Ordering: based in UK, ships international
If you’re looking for natural materials this is your bra! The Very Good Bra claims to be the world’s first zero waste bra – all components, even things like the elastics, labels, and hook/eye closures are naturally derived and the bra will biodegrade. While many eco brands just focus on the main material, TVGB goes the extra mile. They currently have one shaped triangle bra style (although its very supportive – check out the video) in black but will be offering more colours this year.
-The Breakdown- Products: wire-free natural bra & brief Conscious Highlights: all natural materials, biodegradable Size range: 30C/32A – 38DD Ordering: based in Australia, ships international
My other favourite bra is from Luva Huva. All their bras are made to order and they also offer custom sizes. Everything is made in-house in their Brighton studio, and they use a variety of sustainable materials as well as surplus/remnant fabrics and trims. The bralette I have from them is a couple years old but still super comfortable and in good shape.
-The Breakdown- Products: bras, briefs, lingerie & sleepwear Conscious Highlights: eco materials, made in-house, made-to-order Size range: 30A – 40E + custom sizing Ordering: based in UK, ships international
More Bra Brands
Some brands I haven’t personally tried but offer sustainable and ethical bra options.
Beautiful lingerie made for a variety of shapes and sizes. Their pieces are locally made in NYC in small batches from a variety of materials (some sustainable, some not).
-The Breakdown- Products: Bras, briefs, & lingerie Conscious Highlights: small batch production, some reclaimed materials, ethically made in NYC, body-inclusive models Size range: 28A – 42H + custom sizing Ordering: based in US, ships international
Proclaim’s bralette comes in 3 nude shades! Made in Los Angeles from recycled plastic water bottles.
-The Breakdown- Products: nude bralette Conscious Highlights: recycled material, ethically made in LA, body-inclusive models Size range: S-XL Ordering: based in US, also ships to Canada, Australia and the UK
Specializing in bras and lingerie for small busts. Aikyou uses primarily organic cotton and their pieces are sewn in a fairtrade factory in Croatia. They are also in the process of getting GOTS certified.
-The Breakdown- Products: bras, briefs & tanks Conscious Highlights: organic cotton, fairtrade certified factory, vegan brand Size range: XS – L Ordering: based in Germany, ships international
One of the few conscious brands who offer both underwire and wire-free styles. Nico uses mainly lenzing modal and recycled cotton and their products are made in Australia or in their GOTS certified (working on fairtrade certification) factory in India.
-The Breakdown- Products: bras, briefs, & swimwear Conscious Highlights: eco materials, made in Australia and GOTS certified factory in India Size range: 30A – 36DD Ordering: based in Australia, ships international
I wanted to include Naja because they are one of the few brands offering molded-cup bras. While not all their products are sustainable they do have an eco-friendly bra collection made from recycled synthetics and a zero waste collection made from reclaimed fabric.
-The Breakdown- Products: bras, briefs, & activewear Conscious Highlights: some sustainable materials, factory primarily employs single mothers Size range: 32B – 36DD (in eco bras) Ordering: based in US, ships international
Even though I’d love to see brands with larger size ranges, it’s great that there are at least some offering more inclusive sizing.
🍁 Being from Canada I also wanted to include some Canadian options, and while there aren’t many lingerie brands based in Canada, Azura Bay is a great online boutique to find both international sustainable bra brands and some Canadian brands! (They also have a US store as well)
Eek! I said the scary ‘C’ word – at least, it was for me before I got started on my own composting journey. But let me say, it is So. Much. Less. Intimidating. then I was making it out to be. Seriously. I promise you.
I live in an urban setting with a small backyard, and I was terrified that I was going to screw the compost up and it was going to stink up the whole neighborhood.
Good news: that hasn’t happened yet.
More good news: I quickly learned there isn’t really a way to ‘screw compost up’. If something seems a little astray, you just make a minor tweak and you’re good to go.
Even more good news: Once you implement composting into your routine, it is easy and very low maintenance.
Before I jump in with how to compost using an FAQ style of organizing material, I wanted to say a quick note on purchasing items for composting.
I am a huge believer in the zero waste movement that you do not HAVE to buy new items in order to practice reducing your waste. I am a big proponent of using what you have. That all being said, I do share options of types of compost bins and containers that are out there if you feel one of them fit your needs.
I personally have a bin that we received new, and I also use an old laundry hamper that I found on the side of the road.
If you are at a point where you want to start composting but have limited resources (whatever those may be), I would suggest paying close attention to the ‘advanced tips’ at the end of this post.
Now: let’s get into all things compost!
Why do I need to compost? Doesn’t food just break down and decompose in a landfill?
Short answer: Yes, but not in the wonderful breakdown-of-food-into-fertilizer sense. It’s actually much worse.
I believed this for a long time, so if you do/did too, you’re not alone. I think this is a really common misconception. But as you’ll read below, composting requires simple yet specific ‘ingredients’ to work.
When a traditional compost pile is ‘working’ properly, a fancy-smancy chemical reaction happens to create heat and break down the compost pile contents.
Please know that although I have my masters in Natural Science and Environmental Education, I did terrible in Chemistry and am nowhere near chemist level knowledge. However, I do know that traditional compost piles need four main ingredients:
These four ingredients provide the necessary ‘habitat’ for what I like to call ‘little guys’ (actually called microorganisms/bacterial organisms) to break down the content. These bacterial organisms are aerobic, meaning they need oxygen.
If you think of a landfill, there isn’t much oxygen getting anywhere below the surface of the pile.
So, if there isn’t any oxygen, there isn’t any composting. So what is there?
I’ll let you do the math (also not a strong subject).
Composting is a super easy and cost-effective way to significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Why? When conditions are right in a traditional pile, as the little guys break down the organic content, heat is generated. As heat is generated, the contents break down faster. Eventually, you’ll be left with beautiful, rich ‘garden food’, as we like to call it in our house, aka, natural fertilizer. All made from stuff that would have ended up in a landfill producing methane.
Isn’t composting expensive? Don’t I need to buy a bin?
It definitely doesn’t have to be.
There are a number of composting methods out there, but I’ll only cover two-and-a-half main ones (yes, just stick with me):
Traditional composting (method described above) done outside in a bin, pile, or container. Compost process is done through microorganisms using four main ingredients.
Vermicomposting using worms – perfect for small spaces such as apartments or condos. You feed the worms, the worms do all the work.
Industrial/Commercial composting is composting done at a large scale level. Think: when a waste company or city collects compost from residents in some type of program (drop off or pickup). Compost that goes in an industrial level can usually handle items such as meat and dairy, because temperatures get much hotter than in traditional backyard composts (to clarify: you can’t put meat or dairy in a backyard compost because the temperatures do not get hot enough to kill off certain pathogens). I’m not going to talk much more about industrial composting, because I am going to guess that if you are here reading this post, you are interested in traditional backyard composting. If you are interested in learning more about this type of composting, check out this article here.
Traditional composting is done by storing kitchen scraps in a bin inside and then taking them outside to a larger bin or pile.
The easiest way to compost using this method is to have a waste reduction company or city who collects organic waste via curbside collection. Check with your waste reduction company/city to see if they offer this service. Using this method you only have to worry about collecting the scraps and bringing them outside when it’s time for pick-up.
If you don’t have access to this option (like me), and you have a yard, an outdoor compost bin or pile is your next best option. This is what my family and I do!
What receptacle do you choose for traditional composting?
There are many varieties all the way from a simple pile on the ground to a compost tumbler. There are some you can buy premade or there are many different DIY options.
My family and I have one that came as a kit that we assembled (by we I mean my husband) out of some wood and chicken wire.
We also have another one that I started as an experiment, but has actually turned out to be a decent compost bin. I found a tall hamper that someone was giving away for free, and wanted to see if that would work. I’m pleased to say it did!
I’ve also seen wire dog kennels, old Rubbermaid storage bins, old garbage bins, and pallets all being used as receptacles.
As you can see, the possibilities are endless. It all depends on your handiness skill/desire, budget, and space.
When looking for a bin, whether you are making your own or buying one, the important things are:
Ventilation in order to provide oxygen for the microorganisms
Room to stir
Capacity (how much will your bin hold versus how much organic waste you produce)
Critters such as mice, squirrels, etc (we don’t have an issue in ours, but something to consider)
One more thing about traditional composting: weather.
What about in winter? Can you compost in winter?
I live in Minnesota, and if you’ve ever heard of Minnesota you have probably heard one thing: it gets cold and it snows. And guess what. Composting still works year-round (and is actually easier in the winter)!
In the winter, we just keep adding scraps to the pile as normal. In the spring or even some warmer winter days, the pile will compress down, and you can then stir as needed. That’s it!
Still not convinced? Or maybe you live in a small space and a large outdoor bin isn’t possible. That’s OK! There is a second method I haven’t talked about yet, and that is vermicomposting…aka, worm composting.
Two other things to pay attention due regarding weather is rain and temperature. If you start receiving a lot of rain, your compost bin may get too wet. But don’t worry, all you need to do is add some more brown materials (I’ll go into detail about this below) which include leaves, cardboard, newspapers, etc. You’ll notice you need to add some dry, brown materials if you start to notice a smell coming from your compost.
If you are in a dry period where you have received no moisture, you may need to add a little water to your pile. During the summer, I follow the rule of thumb that if I’m watering my garden (meaning it hasn’t rained that day), I just spray some hose water onto the pile. You’ll notice you need otadd some water if your compost pile isn’t working (“going down”) or if you can’t feel the heat coming out of the center of it.
If you are using an enclosed bin, you will probably want to check for dryness/wetness on a more regular basis, since weather may not necessarily play as big of a role.
What is Vermicomposting?
Before I lose you to the whole worm thing, let me tell you, it isn’t as creepy as it sounds.
I’m going to be 100% upfront with you here, I don’t have any experience in worm composting, so I can’t speak from experience. Because of that, I’ll link to a lot of great resources I found in case you’re interested in learning more. But I think it’s important to give an option for anyone interested in composting, whether you have a yard or not.
Vermicomposting is composting using worms in a small container versus having a large outdoor bin. This means that worm composting is perfect for anyone who doesn’t have a yard and/or lives in a really small space.
Instead of the Carbon, Nitrogen, Water, and Oxygen reaction I talked about above, the worms do all the work. All you need to do is make sure they have all the food they need (aka compost and shredded paper or newspaper), and that their bin doesn’t get too hot or cold.
This post from Queen Bee Coupons (don’t let the name fool you) has a lot of really great information about worm composting, including DIY instructions for making your own bin out of two storage containers and a troubleshooting guide.
Here is a similar post with great information from the EPA. As you saw from the link above, DIY worm bin options are readily available.
Otherwise, you can purchase one like the options below:
Ventihut Bin: Perfect for a porch or balcony, as long as it doesn’t get too warm or cold. Otherwise, can work indoors.
This post from Apartment Therapy talks about creating a DIY compost bin(similar to the ones outside), but for indoors.
You can also check in with your city or county to see if they have a drop off site (our local nature center has one). Or check in with your local farmer’s markets, co-op, or garden center, or local trash company (if you have one that is not run by your city) to see if they offer an industrial/community compost. In this type of program, residents would (most likely) drop off compost at a designated area, but some programs have a pickup option. Many of these places offer a program like this, but don’t necessarily have the budget to advertise. It is definitely worth asking around.
And if they don’t? Use your voice to start advocating for one in your area!
My city recently implemented a program with two dropoff points. They not only surpassed their goal of 500 households within 6 months, but they are also well underway to reaching 600 households! The program has been wildly successful and could be in your area too. And who knows, maybe the city/farmers market/co-op was already thinking about doing one!
Ok. I’ve got the bins and types of composting down. What types of things can I compost?
Both traditional and worm composting can effectively break down similar organic materials such as:
Fruit and vegetables
Tea and coffee grounds
Bread/pasta (with no dairy or oil)
Paper products such as napkins, paper towels, tissues, shredded paper, newspaper
Sawdust and wood shavings
Dust/dirt from sweeping
Any type of compostable disposables
Toilet paper and paper towel rolls
Hair (animal or from your hairbrush)
Beans and lentils
100% all natural fabrics
Things you can’t compost or feed your worms*:
Grease and fat
*If you have access to an industrial/commercial compost – usually through a city or trash company pickup, you usually CAN add in meat and dairy. Double check with the program to see what they will and will not accept.
How do I collect the organic waste inside before adding it to a bin, and should I use compost bags?
My family and I use compost bags from the brand UNNI and LOVE them (we have found them to be the most durable), but you don’t have to use bags at all. Some people put their waste right into a container without a bag.
There is no right or wrong way; just whatever works best for you.
As for bins, we use a regular old Rubbermaid storage container or just a bowl with the bag in it on the counter. It only stays out a day or two, and we’ve never had an issue with smell. Sometimes we also put it in the fridge if it has been a couple of days and we’re not ready to take it out yet.
Once the bag is full, we take it out to the main bin! That’s it.
There are ‘official’ compost pails available that come with smell-control venting if that is a concern for you.
First, you need a bin (see above). If you are worm composting, you can revisit the links I provided earlier on how to get those set up.
If you’re going the traditional method, here are the steps:
Set up your bin
On the bottom of the bin, put branches to help create some air flow to the bottom of the pile
Add in some brown material – leaves or cardboard are great options
Pour some dirt on top (can be from your garden or yard, doesn’t have to be fancy)
Then, add in whatever scraps you have
The brown/green ratio should be about 3 times the brown for 1 green. This is just an estimate though – don’t feel like you have to measure anything out
On top of the scraps, add some more brown material (we save all our leaves from the fall to use for our compost)
Add some water
After a few days, you should start to see an area in the middle of the pile that looks like it has sunken in. If you hold your hand over that area, you should feel some heat. This means your pile is working!
Mixing: You will want to mix your pile every 1-2 weeks to make sure those microorganisms aka ‘little guys’ (remember them) are getting enough oxygen. I use an old shovel and just mix the contents around a little bit.
Each time you add ‘green’ materials, make sure you add approximately three times the brown
Your compost is ‘done’ once you have beautiful, brown, soil-looking material! If you find a few pieces that aren’t fully broken down yet, add them back into the pile.
Smelly: If your pile starts to smell, it’s probably too wet. Add some more brown materials and you should be good to go
Dry: If your pile does not seem to be composting, try adding some water. I usually sprinkle some hose water on the pile each time I water my garden.
Not breaking down: If your pile does not seem to be composting, you may need to add some more green materials.
Soil: If you’ve tried adding some water and more greens, and your pile still isn’t breaking down, try adding some soil in.
Neither of these tickle my fancy. What can I do?
As I previously mentioned, check with your local county or city to see if they collect organic waste at their drop-off facilities – some do. If you go that option, you can freeze your organic waste until you drop it off to ensure you don’t have a ton of rotting food sitting around (another bonus for composting in the winter months – just put the materials in a bin in the garage or outside).
I’m also going to gently encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. Composting can make a huge impact on climate change. I know change can be hard. Implementing more into your routine can be hard. But you know what? The alternative (our climate changing to catastrophic levels) is a lot scarier, in my opinion.
Composting was really intimidating for me as well, as I’ve already mentioned. But I’m SO glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and did it. If you need a little more encouragement, my friend Jen from Honestly Modern has a FANTASTIC series called ‘You Can Make Dirt’, where she interviews everyday people about their composting journey. The interviews are what I wish I had when I was first looking into composting because they would have eased a lot of my fears.
If you are still on the fence, take some time to look through the interviews to ease some of your concerns. I think it will help!
Final question: what do I do with the compost?
Compost is amazing boost for flowers, trees, grass, and veggies.
Here are some ideas for using compost if you have a garden:
Use it as fertilizer in your yard (grass and trees)
Use it as fertilizer for your flower and veggie gardens and/or pots
Use it as a fertilizer for your houseplants
You may have noticed that all the options I mentioned have to do with fertilizing. Because compost is so rich in nutrients and doesn’t have the same drainage/water holding properties as regular soil, it is not a good idea to use compost in place of traditional soil.
Here are some ideas for using compost if you don’t have a garden or have excess compost:
Give it to your neighbors: Get ready to be the favorite neighbor on the block. Many of your neighbors would likely LOVE to get some lovely, rich garden food!
Check with a local school or daycare: some schools and daycares have local gardens as a teaching tool
Check with a local garden center
Find your favorite farmer and offer it to them!
Do you have a community garden in your neighborhood? I am sure they would love it!
Composting is great, but what about food waste?
Last but not least, in a post about composting food waste, I would be irresponsible not to talk about food waste in general. And while food waste in itself is a whole separate post, I wanted to quickly bring up a couple of things.
First, yes, composting is awesome. It keeps food waste out of landfills which means less methane in the atmosphere. But it’s important not to use that as an excuse to become lenient on food waste. Even with composting food, you are:
Throwing away money
Wasting all of the resources that went into growing, harvesting, and transporting that food
Literally throwing away food when some of our fellow humans are going hungry
Remember, 40% of all food is thrown away. And while composting is a great solution to avoiding the landfill, let’s also focus on reducing food waste!
Advocate for city-wide, farmers market, local co-op, or local trash company composting – whether it is curbside pickup or drop off at a local location. Allow others the chance who may not have the resources to do it themselves.
Offer to take some of your neighbors organic waste to compost
Help others start a compost pile of their own
Work on reducing your overall food waste
I hope that the information in your post has answered any questions you may have about composting, AND encourages you to get started!
Have questions? Ask in the comments, via any of my social media channels, or better yet – join my Trash Talkers FB group and ask there!
This post is in partnership with Sustain who makes naturally-dyed, organic wardrobe staples.
I’ve talked before about my love of natural dyeing and even though it’s not very common in the fashion industry, I’m so happy to see some slow fashion brands using this traditional method. In a previous post with Sustain I explained how natural dyeing works, but now that we’ve gone over the basics, I really want to talk about how and why I became enchanted with naturally-dyed clothing. I think there is something so special about natural dyes that you just can’t get with the synthetic alternatives.
My Introduction to Natural Dyeing
It was the second year of my university program studying fashion design, I remember walking into a textile class early in the semester and being hit by a powerful mix of woody and plant smells, maybe something a little barnyard-y too? Around the room were large pots with fruit, peels, wood, and unidentifiable other things simmering inside. We took strips of cloth, dipping them into the pots or leaving them to simmer and started to learn about natural dyes.
What first stuck with me was the history – this is how clothes have been dyed for thousands of years! Humans have always used clothing not just for practical reasons but for self-expression and this is evidenced by embellished garments found by archaeologists, even the world’s oldest woven garment has small, decorative pleats. Dyeing was not only practical but also a way to make garments more special for the wearer. Fabric and yarn dyed this traditional way made me feel connected to the women throughout history who would have used these methods and worn clothes in these colours.
What really made me fall in love with natural dyeing though was the unexpected nature of it – it’s a bit of an adventure with lots of experimentation and you’re never totally guaranteed what the result will be. Small things like the water used or even what part of the year the dye material was picked can have an impact on your final colour. The advantage of synthetic dyes in fashion is you get perfect consistency but I prefer the unique variations you can get with natural dyes. I have a lovely pj set from Sustain and mine is actually more green than the one she has photographed on the website. Even though it’s the same process, variations can happen depending on the dye vat, making each garment special. Colour shifts can even happen later and over-time. To me it gives the garments a unique “living” quality and the colours have a richness that you can only get from natural dyes.
This introduction to natural dyes played a major role in starting my slow fashion journey and helping me realize that there are alternatives and different ways to produce clothing outside of the now “normal” mass-manufacturing, fast fashion industry.
Madder is one of the first dyes I discovered. It’s grown around the world and the roots are used for a range of orange and red dyes. It’s a great dye for both colour-fastness and depth of colour. I previously assumed all natural dyes were light and pale (and many can be) but the first time I saw madder-dyed fabric I was shocked that such a bright, beautiful red could be achieved from a plant.
In terms of sustainability, I love dyes that utilise food waste – it can be used for another purpose before being thrown away! I’ve personally used yellow onion skins for lovely golden yellow shades and red onion skins can also be used. Avocado pits and skins are also used as dyes and are a great way to utilize food scraps. Here is another example of unexpected natural dyes – would you ever assume that the dark green avocado skins and brown pits would give you a soft pink dye?
Finally we have to talk about indigo, which has such a beautiful process and a rich history of being used around the world. Even though most people know of indigo dye thanks to denim, the process of naturally-dyeing with indigo is really interesting. Indigo actually isn’t soluble in water, so it requires a reduced vat where the oxygen has been lowered (there are various ways to do this, some more sustainable than others – Sustain for example uses a natural sugar method). When the blue indigo is in the reduced vat it becomes a beautiful green. Fabric added to the vat also turns green, however when it’s removed and makes contact with the air the oxygen changes the indigo back to it’s original insoluble state and you see the fabric magically change from green to blue. This reaction is also what binds the indigo to the fabric for long-lasting colour. Unlike other dyes where leaving it in the dye bath deepens the colour, the blue of indigo is darkened with each dip into the dye vat – allowing this process to happen over and over.
There are so many incredible dyeing and surface design techniques used around the world that I would need many posts to cover them (but I hope to talk about more traditional techniques in the future!) however one that Sustain incorporates in some of their pieces is Ayurvedic dyeing. This is a process where plants and herbs with known benefits and medical properties (often related to the skin) are used to dye with. Part of the process includes keeping temperatures low to preserve these plant properties. Sustain partners with a company in India who uses these traditional Ayurvedic techniques with beneficial plant combinations like acacia, neem, turmeric, asparagus, cinnamon, geranium, holy basil, Thai ginger, and many more.
Especially if you have very sensitive skin and have had issues with clothing or dyes, these Ayurvedic dyes or undyed, organic clothing are great to look into.
I hope this post has given you a little look into the beautiful world of natural dyes. While synthetic dyes play an major role in the fashion industry, I love that within the slow fashion movement, natural dyes are still being utilized and traditional techniques are being preserved.
A huge thank you to Sustain for sponsoring this post and allowing me to share some of my love and excitement about natural dyes – they will always play an important role in my slow fashion journey.
In celebration of Valentines Day, here are some eco-friendly ways to spend time with your special someone. Personally I much prefer spending time together than giving gifts, and not only are these great lower-impact dates but they also can be very affordable!
Huge thank you to the My Green Closet community for helping with this and sharing some of their date ideas 💕
1. Take a Walk Together
This was the most popular idea and I also love going on walks.
Johanna suggests a “walk in the forest or nature and a picnic” – I think it’s so romantic to have a picnic in a lovely location. Lisa also adds you can walk to a destination you both enjoy, “we will take walks with the end goal of getting ice cream or hot cocoa (bring your reusable mugs or any other reusable items for use of course–maybe even purchase a reusable travel mug or ice cream bowl for your sweetheart to take on the walking date if they don’t have one)” or you can “walk to the library to pick up movies to watch together”. For another nature walk, Jess suggests “how about visiting a local park or nature conversation center?”
2. Go Treasure Hunting
My husband and I really enjoy wandering through antique stores and flea markets. Sometimes we have something we’re looking for but we also just enjoy wandering and looking at all the old and interesting things.
3. Enjoy a Lower-Impact Dinner
Going out for dinner is a classic date night (and definitely my go-to) but you can make it greener by choosing organic, plant-based, or local “farm-to-table” restaurants.
For Lauren’s date they’re going to a restaurant “that has an organic food and wine menu, and they don’t use plastic either, and they support local growers 😊”. Kylee suggests “Supporting a really lovely local restaurant that uses season and local ingredients” and as another alternative Jailyn had the idea of “instead of going out for an overpriced meal, donate two dinners to a homeless shelter and have a quiet, romantic dinner at home.”
I also love trying a new plant-based recipe and cooking it at home together.
4. Give Back
A wonderful, fulfilling way to spend time together is giving back to your community. You could volunteer for an organization you support, or maybe join a local park or beach clean-up.
5. Learn Something New
If there’s a topic you’re both interested in, you could attend a talk, tour, or take a course. Kylee also suggests checking out an exhibit at “an art gallery or museum” or “watching an eco-centric documentary over a home-cooked “guilty pleasure” meal”.
6. Play a Game
Playing a card or board games can be a great at-home date, or see if there’s a local board game cafe you can go to and try some new games.
Games are pretty easy to find secondhand or borrow from friends!
7. Listen to some Live Music
Head to a local venue, (ideally with local beers on tap!) and check out a new or favourite band/musician. If you prefer a chill night or dancing until your feet hurt, there’s probably a show for you.
Stephanie also suggests “seeing local bands in eco-friendly pubs or restaurants” and it’s a wonderful way to support artists as well!
8. Sleep under the Stars
Definitely for the warmer months, but I love an unplugged camping night. Pack up some snacks, blankets and a tent and head to a local campground, or camp in your own backyard!
Thanks to everyone who contributed their ideas to this post and if you have any other eco-friendly date ideas please share them in the comments!
After Marie Kondo’s hit Netflix show Tidying Up launched this year, people around the world have been asking themselves if their stuff “sparks joy” and decluttering the items that don’t. While I love that the show has inspired people to think about their stuff and what they actually need and love, and personally I’ve experienced so many benefits of decluttering and being more mindful of my possessions, I think there’s a missing element of how to get rid of all the stuff in a responsible way.
Often people’s first response is to trash it as it’s the easiest and fastest way to get rid of things, but obviously this creates a ton of unnecessary waste. Thrift stores have seen an uptick in donations which might seem like a great thing (if you’re an avid thrifter get out there and enjoy it!), but actually comes with a series of issues as thrift stores and charity shops already get way more donations than they can sell.
Donating isn’t always “Good”
I’d like to clarify this because I don’t want to give the wrong impression – donating your unused stuff instead of throwing it away is definitely the way to go, but let’s look at ways you can do this more responsibly. People often feel that by donating their clothes and home goods to thrift stores they are doing something altruistic and helping others when this might not be the result.
Another issue with this system is we are essentially selling our garbage to someone else. Clothing is packaged and sold in large bales, then the purchaser goes through and sorts out what they can sell, but what about the rest? I couldn’t find detailed information about what happens to it but I assume it most likely ends up in a landfill.
How can you donate better?
Make sure everything is clean and in good condition. If you wouldn’t wear/use it, it’s better to recycle and not donate it. Sorting out unusable items at donation centres requires time, resources, and energy and it might just end up in the trash anyway, so only donate good quality, good condition, saleable items.
Check with shelters, charities, and other local organisations who might want your stuff. It’s really important to contact them first though as most of these organisations only need specific items. Don’t just drop stuff off and make them then deal with things they can’t use as this ends up costing the charity time and sometimes money.
Do some research into any charities, thrift shops, and organizations you’re donating to. Do you support their causes? Organizations should be transparent about what they do with donations – are they given to local charities, sold, etc and what happens to items they can’t use/sell? It’s especially important to look into the charities with clothing donation bins as some of these have been found to be fakes.
Consider selling instead
Selling your clothes and household goods can actually be a great way to ensure the item goes to someone who will use it. You can use local buy/sell sites or groups, sell through consignment stores, or through online marketplaces.
This can be a great way to make some money back or you can donate the money you made instead. Donating funds to support your favourite organizations can be a lot more helpful than donating stuff as it gives them the flexibility to do/buy exactly what they need.
How else can you get rid of your stuff?
See if any friends or family members want your things. An easy way to do this is post what you’re getting rid of on social media and see if there are any takers. This way you know it’s going to someone who will use it. You can also see if there are any local Freecycle groups where you can give away stuff.
If you’re really into tidying up you might not want to bring anything new into your closet but if you’re getting rid of clothes and possibly also looking to add some pieces to your wardrobe, a clothing swap can be a really fun and sustainable way to update your closet. Invite friends to bring clothes they no longer want and make an event of it! Although be sure to also have a plan for any leftovers.
If you’re crafty you can also look into some upcycle projects. Pinterest, youtube, and blogs have endless project ideas – just make sure it’s something you will actually use/wear.
Anything that is broken, in poor condition, used up, or unsalable should be recycled instead of donated. Depending on the product and where you live there are different options:
Check if the brand has a take-back program.
Look into local recycling facilities and what they accept. If they don’t take certain items like textiles ask if they know places that do.
Do a little research – if I ever have items I’m not sure about recycling, I always do a quick search “How to recycle _______”, sometimes you get some good tips or find organizations that will take the item for recycling.
Check out TerraCycle as they recycle many items that recycling facilities won’t take.
After the Tidy Up
Something else very important with the whole decluttering process is making sure you don’t just re-accumulate the stuff.
First, enjoy your new space! Hopefully you will get some of the wonderful benefits of a tidier home and closet – less stress, easier to find things, only having items that you use and enjoy, etc. Recognizing and remembering the benefits you experienced will help with maintaining that space.
Consider your shopping habits or how you got all the stuff that doesn’t “spark joy” in the first place. Do you shop for fun or stress relief? Easily get tempted by sales? Make a lot of impulse purchases? Changing shopping habits can be very difficult but trying to find your routines and triggers can really help with making those changes.
Try implementing rules for new purchases. Some people find this really helpful to change their shopping habits. The “One In One Out” rule is pretty popular – so in order to bring something new in you have to be willing to let go of something else. Other people will wait a certain time, like a week, after seeing something they want before they can buy it – this helps you to think and make sure it’s something you really want. I’ve also seen people impose a strict budget which not only helps you save money but also means you really have to think about what you do buy.
Whether you find rules work for you or not, something that’s always helpful when faced with a new purchase is to ask yourself these questions before buying.
Do you have any other tips for tidying up and getting rid of stuff responsibly?
Read some more Marie Kondo/Tidying Up Posts from fellow EWC Members:
The most common questions I get are about brand recommendations, so during this year I’ll be posting some round-ups of conscious brands in different categories. I asked my Patrons where to start and they voted activewear, so let’s get those muscles moving!
With all these round-ups I’ll try my best to have a mix of European and North American brands and at least one from Australia. The round-ups will include some brands I wear and love, but with a capsule wardrobe I don’t own very many clothes so can’t personally try all the different brands and products out. Also with any recommendations it’s important to do your own research and make sure that the brand meets your own ethical/sustainable priorities.
A NYC based and locally made loungewear brand, Miakoda has a selection of pieces great for yoga, working out, or just as comfy day-wear. I especially love my leggings from them, the fabric is super soft and the cut is really comfortable. All their pieces are made with plant-based fabrics using blends of bamboo, organic cotton, lyocell and soy.
-The Breakdown- Products: women’s casual lounge & yoga wear Great for: comfy & soft essentials Conscious Highlights: eco fabrics, reuse scrap fabric, vegan brand, made in NYC Size range: XS-XL Ordering: based in USA, ships international
A yoga and exercise brand from Germany with a wide range of unique styles and cuts. I especially like their tops with built-in bras and they always have a great selection of colours and prints. Mandala uses a variety of eco fabrics from certified organic cotton, to Tencel Lyocell, to recycled polyester, made by people paid fair wages, under fair working conditions in their factories in Turkey and Shanghai.
-The Breakdown- Products: women’s yoga & workout wear Great for: creative details/prints & functional design Conscious Highlights:eco fabrics, certified/branded fabrics (GOTS, Lenzing, Repreve), fair manufacturing standards (non-certified) Size range: XS-XL Ordering: based in Germany, ships international
Teeki specialises in unique and creative prints. Their line of yoga bottoms and tops are all made in the US from recycled PET (plastic bottles). I’ve owned a pair of their cropped leggings for a few years now and they’re great for running and the gym, although in general I do prefer natural fibres over wearing synthetics. Their fabric has a lot of spandex which could be an environmental con but it also means they hold their shape very well and after years of use (and proper care to preserve spandex) mine are still holding up great which I also see as a big pro.
-The Breakdown- Products: women’s yoga wear Great for: fun, colourful & unique prints Conscious Highlights: recycled plastic bottles, made in the USA Size range: XS-L Ordering: based in USA, ships international
Some other brands which I haven’t personally tried but look like good conscious options.
Ethical fashion pioneer People Tree also has an active line! The have a pretty basic collection of leggings, tanks and tees, but everything is organic and fair trade certified.
-The Breakdown- Products: women’s yoga wear (they also have a large women’s clothing collection) Great for: simple, organic yoga basics Conscious Highlights: Soil Association & Fair Trade certified organic cotton, fair trade factories, transparent production Size range: 8-16 (UK) Ordering: based in the UK, ships internationally
Known for their beautiful solid colour sets, Girlfriend Collective has a collections of bras, leggings, and shorts made from recycled PET (plastic bottles). Their fabrics are made in Taiwan and they manufacture in Vietnam in an SA8000 certified factory.
They’re also have the most inclusive size range I’ve found from XXS-XXXL in tops and up to 6X in some leggings!
-The Breakdown- Products: women’s yoga & workout wear Great for: matching sets in trendy colours Conscious Highlights: recycled plastic bottles, Oeko-Tex certified Standard 100 fabrics, SA8000 certified factory Size range: XXS-XXXL (some leggings to 6X) Ordering: based in USA, also ships to UK, Australia, and Canada
Austrian brand Nice to Meet Me was co-founded by a yoga teacher and offers a collection of yoga and exercise wear made from organic cotton, Tencel, and recycled fibres. They manufacture nearby in a workshop in Czechia.
-The Breakdown- Products: women’s & men’s yoga & workout wear Great for: colourful designs tested by yoga professionals Conscious Highlights: eco fabrics, GOTS and OEKO-Tex certified cotton, Made in the EU, vegan brand Size range: XS-XL Ordering: based in Austria, ships within Europe
Mainly know for their swimwear, Elle Evans also has a line of athletic leggings and tops. Everything is made to order from ECONYL® which is regenerated nylon often made from things like recycled fishing nets.
-The Breakdown- Products: women’s & children’s swim & yoga wear Great for: colourful prints & sexy cuts Conscious Highlights: recycled materials, made to order to reduce waste, reduce & reuse scrap fabric, made in Australia in their workshop Size range: XS-XL Ordering: based in Australia, ships internationally
While not specifically an active brand, Groceries Apparel does have a nice selection of clothing which could also be great for yoga and exercise. They manufacture in California using a variety of sustainable materials, and even some natural dyes!
-The Breakdown- Products: women’s & men’s casual wear Great for: basics & naturally dyed pieces Conscious Highlights: eco fabrics, made in USA in their own factory Size range: XS-XL Ordering: based in USA, ships internationally
London based, Asquith has a range of lounge and yoga wear made from bamboo, organic cotton, and Bambor® which is their own bamboo and organic cotton blend. They manufacture in a GOTS certified, family-run factory in Turkey.
-The Breakdown- Products: women’s activewear Great for: solid colour basics Conscious Highlights:eco fabrics, made in GOTS certified factory in Turkey Size range: XS-XXL Ordering: based in UK, ships internationally
To be honest, I’ve always been hesitant to recommend Pact because their prices are so low, which often is a red flag (I’ve also heard mixed reviews about their quality). However they have solid credentials – many (although not all) of their basics are made with GOTS certified organic cotton in Fair Trade USA certified factories.
-The Breakdown- Products: women’s lounge & yoga wear Great for: affordable basics Conscious Highlights: GOTS certified organic cotton, made in Fair Trade certified factories Size range: XS-XXL Ordering: based in USA, also ships to Canada
Something I really struggled with is finding an eco brand that makes high-impact sports bras. These brands are great for yoga, the gym, and low to medium impact workouts but as someone with a larger cup size, it’s often not enough support for running and high-impact activities. If you’ve found a conscious brand that makes high-impact sports bras, please let me know!
Also as with most conscious brands there unfortunately seems to be only a limited size range available, except for Girlfriend Collective which it’s great to see someone offering larger sizes. 👏 If you know any other conscious activewear brands with a larger size range please share them.
Finally I’ve also had pretty decent luck finding good quality activewear secondhand (except for the fabric softener incident 😬), so that can be a great way to shop as well!
A few months ago I posted a video about measuring and sizes and it included a link to a survey. I wanted to get some insight into the mystery of clothing sizes and fit and have actual data on what sizes and shapes people are. By far the most common complaint I hear is that people have trouble finding clothing that fits, so I was hoping the survey might show me what common fit issues there are and maybe I could have some stats that would be helpful to show brands where improvements with sizing and fit could be made.
First, I want to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who filled out the survey! You input has been incredibly helpful.
It’s taken me quite a while to wade through all the numbers and to be honest the scope and variables of this kind of data collection were a lot more complex than I initially anticipated. However I found it really interesting and also was quite surprised by what I learned.
Housekeeping and info about the survey
The survey received 955 complete responses, I was hoping for 1000 but still think it’s a decent sample size.
Since the survey was mostly filled out by my audience (although it was also shared on social media and through some other ethical bloggers). It’s important to acknowledge that there might be some bias with the results because I assume people who are following fashion bloggers for clothing and brand recommendations are more likely to follow someone who is a similar age, speaks the sample language, maybe are from similar parts of the world, or maybe even has a similar body type to them so they can see how clothes might look. These are all speculative and of course we follow people for different reasons but it’s just good to note that this isn’t a totally random sample of people.
Also I think it’s very important to point out that the data was all self-reported. Taking measurements in particular can be difficult and even though I provided some instructions there was no control over how people were measuring themselves and therefore likely some variation and inconsistency with that.
Some basic demographics
The vast majority of respondents were 18-44 with the bulk of that falling in the 25-34 age range.
The respondents are also mostly from North America and Europe:
While I really appreciate the men that filled out the survey there unfortunately weren’t enough to have a good set of data so I just focused on women’s sizes for this project.
So what did I find?
Let’s start off with a more simple one…
Height & Petite vs Tall Sizes
One thing I was interested in was height and what percent of people usually wear petite or tall sizes. This chart shows the height distribution of respondents (in cm – sorry everyone who prefers inches but I work a lot better with centimetres so had to convert everything) and what portion wear petite or tall sizes. Typically petite sizes are for those under 160 cm although some also go up to 162 while tall sizes generally start at around 171 cm. However these sizes are mainly for limb length, so for example if you are a average height but have long legs and a short torso or the opposite you might still wear tall or petite sizes and I think that’s why we see some overlap.
Something I found interesting is there are slightly more taller people than petite people however more people wear petite sizes than tall sizes. Maybe this has to do with availability or how clothes are designed, but I found it interesting because I assumed it would be the opposite – since it’s possible to hem regular clothes for petites but you can’t add fabric for taller people.
Measurements & Sizes
This is the data I was really interested in. With my background in fashion design and pattern-making I’ve always used a “standard size guide” for drafting patterns which as far as I understand is based on quite old measurements. I was really curious how closely these measurements matched real people and also how closely the respondents fit into clothing brand’s size charts.
Everyone was asked what letter size(s) they usually wear and these fit relatively close to the way stores typically order sizes, with medium being the highest and tapering down from there (a standard curve), although compared to the survey data stores would likely order more larges and fewer smalls.
Although as I’ll explain shortly this graph isn’t totally accurate and this is also where things really got interesting.
Looking at the measurements (participants measured their bust, waist and hip) there was so much variety in sizes and shapes that it was very difficult to find commonalities and overlap to draw conclusions from. I basically had pages of measurements that really just illustrated how diverse and unique women’s bodies are.
One thing I wanted to do was see how easily people fit into brand’s sizes, so I decided to average the size ranges of 10 popular brands (I used a mix of regular and sustainable/ethical brands) to get my average size ranges. This on its own was interesting to see the variations from brand to brand – they were relatively close for the S-L range but then getting into plus sizes the variations were so drastic it was basically impossible to find a good average.
I then looked at how everyone’s measurements fit into this average size range and assigned a letter size to the bust, waist and hip measurements.
Something that I found incredibly interesting is only 23% of people are the same letter size across their 3 measurements (ie. M bust, M waist, M hips) and this is a generous percent as I also included people who are at the edge of the size range above or below (for example someone who is M bust, M waist and L hips but close to the bottom of the L size range I still included in this %). So this means at least 77% of people don’t fit a single letter size! Most people should be wearing different sizes for tops and bottoms, although even with that, often people’s waist and hips, or waist and bust are different sizes, which can cause fit issues, nevermind buying a fitted dress that needs to fit all measurements. I’ll talk later about some things you can do though!
This is also a good time to highlight the fact that these are a VERY simplified set of measurements, we’re not taking into account things like torso length, bust point, shoulder width, upper hip/lower hip, neck size, thigh size etc. Even with the most simple measurements we could possibly have, there already is a ton of diversity with women’s bodies. Letter sizes are also more simplified than number sizes, so if there is this much of a difference in letter sizes than it must be even greater with number sizes. I of course expected there to be a lot of different shapes and sizes but was surprised at how different everyone actually is even with such basic measurements.
Something else I found really interesting is 27% of people fit a totally different size than they say they wear, and this is a very conservative estimate because I only included people who were significantly different in size than they said. Some of this might have to do with brands having variations in sizing, for example if your favourite brand fits really small or large, or people wanting tighter or looser fits, but I was still surprised at how high the percent of people wearing the “wrong” size is. I also didn’t find commonalities of people saying they wore larger or smaller sizes, for example there’s women who wear an M but fit in a XS size range and women who wear an M but fit in a XL size range.
In hindsight I should have added another question for clarification – asking if people purposely size up or down for fits they like, because I don’t know if a lot of people are doing that on purpose or if a lot of people don’t know what sizes they should be wearing.
Common Fit issues
The one commonality I did manage to find is many women have wider hips than clothing brands account for. The waist-to-hip ratio needs to be larger for a lot of women’s sizes and this was echoed with the question about what common fit issues people had – the biggest issues were hips fitting too small and waist fitting too big. Thighs fitting too small was also very high and also relates to the waist-to-hip ratio issue.
Everything thing else was relatively close with people needing certain areas larger or smaller, so it would be difficult for brands to make changes. Although offering different inseam options could potentially be helpful.
Something else that really needs to be talked about, especially in the ethical fashion space, is inclusive sizing. Many conscious brands only have a S-L range, or if you’re lucky a XS-XXL range. Based on the data I also found there is an under-served market in ethical fashion of about 11% of people who need size XXL or larger and 7% of people who need size XXS or smaller.
What’s the takeaway?
To be honest, going into this I hoped to come out with a list of recommendations and things brands can do to better serve the fit needs and sizes of their customers, and ideally a better size chart that more closely reflected people’s measurements. However what I learned is that clothing brands essentially have an impossible task, women’s bodies are just so different! And this was from only looking at the very simplest of measurements – while people might fit the bust/waist/hip they could have have broader shoulders, larger cups, longer arms, etc. Basically clothing perfectly fits almost no one.
For reference I compared the “standard size” I was taught to draft patterns for and the same measurements many brands use for their sample size (this size is supposed to be the ” average customer”) to the data and not a single person exactly fit the base size! 4 people (out of 950) were pretty close but it still blew my mind that no one actually fit the measurements which entire brand’s sizes are based off. Out of all the sizes less than 1% of people were the base size measurements for the different sizes I and so many fashion students are taught to draft and grade patterns for.
I tried to come up with a new size guide based on averages of the measurements, and even creating clothing for the average person in each size only actually fits a few people and not even perfectly – there is just too much variation.
After discovering this I was actually surprised to see over 25% say it was very easy or fairly easy to find clothing that fits. Although this is pretty close to our 23% of people who fit 1 size in their measurements and it still shows that about 75% of people have issues finding clothing that fits.
How easy people said it is to find clothing, 1 = Very Easy, 5 = Very Difficult
So what can brands do?
Utilise stretch in fabrics (although most everyone already does) to fit a wider range of people
Go for a niche market and focus on designing for a specific body type instead of for everyone – use customer feedback and different fit models to develop fits
Offer custom sizing or do alterations
Possibly try a larger waist-to-hip ratio as this seems to be a common fit issue
However we have to recognise that things like custom sizing cost a lot more and targeting a niche market really limits your audience so I unfortunately can’t see many brands going that route.
I would also recommend brands use a medium size as their base/sample size to grade from since that is the most common size.
Is it too much to expect clothing to fit off the rack?
I hate to say it, but yes.
We’re so different and yet we expect brands to make clothing for all of us. It’s also important to point out that this is a relatively new expectation, historically it was normal for everyone to get their clothing tailored, custom made, or do alterations themselves, but with the rise of fast fashion tailoring has been dying. With clothing that is so cheap and abundant we care less about how it fits and don’t want to spend extra money to get it tailored. There also has been a huge rise in knit clothing and spandex because it allows clothing to fit a larger variety of people.
Fit your largest parts first! Since we learned most people wear different sizes based on their bust, waist and hip measurements it’s best to go with the larger size and have it taken in to fit the smaller areas.
Although this depends on the garment you’re thinking of buying – so you want to pay attention to what areas are most fitted, for example if you’re buying a dress with a fitted bodice and flared skirt the hip measurement doesn’t matter as much but you want to fit the bust and waist measurements.
Check if the garment is a knit (like jersey which naturally has some stretch) or a woven which has no stretch, or if there is any spandex or elastane. This will affect how the garment fits and will give you more flexibility with determining the size you need.
Find a tailor or learn to do alternations yourself. My biggest lesson from this project is how important tailoring and alternations can be for a good fit.
With all the variations in size and shapes it actually feels like a miracle that someone can walk into a store and find a piece that fits perfectly (although I’m pretty sure that miracle’s name is Spandex).
It’s easy to blame the clothing industry for not making clothes that fit but from the perspective of someone who has experience working in the fashion industry and drafting patterns, after combing through all these measurements it seems basically impossible to make clothes that will even fit the majority of people. Fitting about 1/4 of people mostly well doesn’t actually seem so bad when you look at all the variation.
I do think though that if we understand our bodies, proportions, and fits we like, then we can get better at finding the kind of cuts that fit and also know how we can alter things ourselves or with a tailor to get that “fits like a glove” garment.
However if clothes don’t fit this DOES NOT mean we should blame our bodies. I sadly hear this all the time, instead of “these pants are too small”, people often say, “my butt is too big”. We should never be criticising ourselves when clothes don’t fit, it’s an issue with the clothes not you! This project really showed me is how incredibly unique everyone is, of the 950+ participants the vast majority of people have completely individual measurements and at the very most share measurements with 1 or maybe 2 other people. I think that’s pretty incredible. We love to compare ourselves to others but I actually think it’s really freeing and empowering that everyone’s body is uniquely theirs!
I’m leaving this project with 4 main takeaways:
There’s definitely some frustration from the designer/pattern-maker side of me seeing how incredibly difficult it is to design and make clothes that fit well. The only real solution is custom sizing but that unfortunately isn’t realistic for most brands and customers.
It’s really disappointing that we don’t see more of this incredible diversity of bodies in the media.
This project really emphasised for me how terrible it is that we’re taught to see the things that make us unique as “flaws” which should be hidden and to wear “flattering” clothes to try and create the illusion that our bodies are different – typically with the goal to look like whatever body shape is currently idealised.
It’s amazing how unique we all are and horrible how critical I and so many other people can be of their bodies. Nothing is “wrong”, “weird” or “different” – everyone’s body is different! While it might make trying on clothes frustrating I think that uniqueness is something we should celebrate 💕
I’d also love to hear what you learned or took away from this!
If you made it through this whole post, congrats! It was probably the longest post I’ve ever written – definitely the one I’ve put the most time into 😅 and hopefully it wasn’t too dry and data heavy. Even though I feel like it isn’t full of revolutionary findings that will change the ethical fashion industry I still hope it’s helpful and interesting. I found working on this fascinating and would really love to hear your thoughts! Also if you filled out the survey, (thank you!!) was this what you expected to come out of it?
Heading into a new year I always think it’s great to have a mix of goals/resolutions including personal, career, relationship, and also things you can do to reduce your impact. So here are some ideas of things you might want to try this new year. Also check out last year’s post for more ideas!
Save water by watering your plants with the water used to boil veggies or pasta (when it’s cool!)
Try to repair or get secondhand electronics first
Shop with a list to help prevent impulse purchases
Wear sweaters and use blankets in the winter and turn your heat down a bit
Share some of the sustainable things you’re doing to help and inspire others!
I’d love to hear what your conscious resolutions are for the new year!
My lovely friend Kaméa Chayne from the Green Dreamer Podcast made these beautiful planners where you can not only keep track of your days but it also promotes self-care and conscious living, plus has space and prompts for goal setting and reflection. The planners are so beautiful, I already love using mine AND each planner sold plants 50 trees!