15 Ethical & Sustainable Men’s Clothing Brands – Our Top Picks

posted in brand roundups 2

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:

(please note: some affiliate links may be used in this post)

Tentree

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

Sustainable mens clothing brand roundup
Tentree cotton sweater & Arturo Denim Co. jeans

Izzy Lane

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

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

Sustainable menswear brands
Izzy Lane sweater, Knowledge Cotton Apparel coat, Mud jeans, & Myssyfarmi hat

KOTN

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

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

Sustainable mens clothing brand roundup
Tentree cotton sweater & Arturo Denim Co. jeans

Arturo Denim Co.

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

ARMEDANGELS

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

Unbelts

US store, Canadian store

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

Sustainable menswear brands
Nudie Jeans tee & Tentree hemp shorts

Nudie Jeans

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

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

WAMA

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

WAMA hemp underwear
We both love our Wamas!

Conscious Step

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


Shoes

Sustainable mens clothing and shoes
Kamik boots, Izzy Lane sweater, Knowledge Cotton Apparel coat, Mud jeans, & Myssyfarmi hat

Kamik

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

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

Sustainable mens clothing brand roundup
Skye Footwear sneakers, Nudie Jeans tee & Tentree hemp shorts

SKYE Footwear

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

Looking for more sustainable menswear? Check out our top sustainable clothing brands for the whole family or for more shoe options, we have a huge list of sustainable footwear!

2 Things You NEED to Know About Recycling

posted in low waste 1

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: 

  1. 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)
  2. Place recyclables into a blue bag that is picked up on garbage day
  3. 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. 

Help Others

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. 

How the Pandemic Made Me a More Mindful Human


“But what am I supposed to do next?”

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.

Practice permaculture

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?

Share below!

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.

Get your Kids Outside with these 10 Easy & Eco-Friendly Activity Ideas

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This year, more than ever, it’s time to take advantage of the good weather and get outside!

And it’s not only fun – playing outside offers numerous mental and physical health benefits and can teach children about nature and develop a respect for the environment.

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!

Check out these fantastic ideas for both educational and creative chalk activities.

💚 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.

💚 Eco-tip: Use reusable food containers and cutlery to save waste! EarthHero has some great eco-friendly and zero waste options.


Grow a Garden

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.

💚 Eco- tip: Instead of regular plastic, get a kids-sized watering can and gardening tools make from recycled milk jugs!


Do some Science Experiments

There are so many great outdoor STEM activities and experiments for kids of all ages! Some easy ones which require minimal supplies or set-up are:

  • Seeing what objects float or sink
  • Rock stacking
  • Make a sundial or rain meter
  • Build a bug hotel
  • Use a glass of water to make a rainbow
  • Try to identify different stages of plant growth
  • Explore a soil sample
  • Find and feel different natural textures – you can use paper and a pencil to take texture rubbings

💚 Eco-tip: Jen over at Thoughtfully Sustainable also some great sustainability-themed STEM activities and experiments for kids.


Go “Camping”

You don’t have to go on a big trip to have some camping fun! It could be as simple as setting up a blanket tent outside to play in.

💚 Eco-tip: If you are planning a camping trip watch my tips for sustainable camping.


Paint Outside

Eco-kids finger paint is natural and biodegradable. Colored with fruit, plant and vegetable extracts, it’s safe for kids and the environment.

Set up some paper and have fun painting or get creative and paint rocks or other outdoor objects.


Go on a Bike Ride

It’s a great way to get some exercise and explore your neighborhood or local parks!

💚 Eco-tip: For little kids we love our Wishbone Toddler Bike. It’s made from sustainable wood and “grows” with your child – it can be used from 18 months to 5 years!


Play a Game

Many games are even better outside! Try playing:

  • Follow the Leader
  • Racing
  • Hot or Cold with a toy or object
  • “Red Light, Green Light”
  • Hide & Seek
  • Tag
  • Catch
  • Beanbag/Ball Toss

Or bring a board/card game outside.


Make Nature Art

Use rocks, leaves, sticks, or whatever is around to create patterns, shapes, mandalas, or drawings.

💚 Eco-tip: Use rocks, sticks, and fallen leaves instead of taking flowers or leaves of living plants!


Tips for an Enjoyable Time Outdoors with Kids

  • Be sun-safe. No one wants to end a beautiful day outside with a sunburn! Take precautions by putting on sunscreen and wearing a hat. Choose a safe and sustainable sunscreen.
  • Stay hydrated. Especially in the hot summer it’s important to drink water – bring a water bottle whenever going outside. Kleen Kanteen is a great one with tops for both toddlers and older kids.
  • Keep the mosquitos away. Try a natural, non-toxic repellent spray.
  • 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!


Have fun 💚

6 Ocean-Safe, Non-Nano Sunscreens

We want our sunscreen to protect our skin—but what about our oceans? These suncare products end up in our waterways one way or another, whether we’re going for a swim at the beach or washing it off in the shower. Therefore, the sunscreens we use should be good for the environment just as much as it is good for our bodies.

Many conventional sunscreens use chemicals that are potentially harmful to marine life and cause coral bleaching. Others use ingredients that absorb into your skin and make its way through your bloodstream, which can lead to skin irritation, hormonal disruption, and even skin cancer. The trick is to find a product that creates a layer over your skin to protect you from the sun, wash off your body easily, and enter our water without hurting the environment.

It’s best to look for sunscreens that use non-nano or uncoated zinc oxide, which contains particles that are not small enough to penetrate the skin. You should also avoid sunscreens that include any of the following eight ingredients, according to various studies.

  • Avobenzone
  • Enzacamene
  • Homosalate
  • PABA (Aminobenzoic Acid)
  • Octinoxate
  • Octisalate
  • Octocrylene
  • Oxybenzone

If a brand claims it is cruelty-free, vegan-friendly, or naturally derived, this does not mean that it does not contain these chemicals. That’s why it’s so important to actually look at the ingredients in your sunscreen! 

Here are a few options that do not contain the ingredients listed above and utilize non-nano zinc oxide in their formula. 

(please note: some affiliate links may be used in this post)
Raw Love Reef Safe Sunscreen SPF 35
Image courtesy of Raw Love

Raw Love

Raw Love is Hawaiʻi’s first FDA compliant sunscreen company, according to their website. It uses 100% all natural plant-based ingredients (including unrefined coconut oil, raw shea butter, beeswax, and carrot seed oil) while also using organic farming methods.

The sunscreen comes in a 4-ounce or 2-ounce tin making it plastic-free packaging as well!

Price: 4 oz. SPF 35 Reef Safe Sunscreen, $24.99


AllGood SPF 30 Sport Mineral Sunscreen Spray
Image courtesy of AllGood

AllGood

AllGood uses non-nano zinc oxide as it’s only active ingredient in both the spray and lotion sunscreens. They’ve packed some many antioxidants such as rosehip oil and green tea into the mineral sunscreens to help repair and support your skin.

The company offers other products such as lip protection, deodorants, and lotions which are also free of nasty chemicals. 

Price: 6 oz. SPF 30 Sport Mineral Sunscreen Spray, $19.99


Versed SPF 35 Daily Mineral Sunscreen
Image courtesy of Versed

Versed

The “Guards Up” daily mineral sunscreen is an SPF 35, oil-free formula with a creamy texture that won’t leave a white cast on the skin. The sunscreen container is made mostly of post-consumer recycled plastic and is recyclable—a double win!

Versed also offers other products that you can filter on their website based on your specific skincare concerns. 

Price: 1.7 oz. SPF 35 Daily Mineral Sunscreen, $21.99


Thinksport SPF 50+ Safe Sunscreen
Image courtesy of ThinkSport

ThinkSport

Here’s a safe, SPF 50 for any athletes or outdoor lovers. The ThinkSport sunscreen formula is dermatologist tested and is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

Thinksport also has a line of sunscreens specifically for kids and babies that has been rated one of the best sunscreens for children in 2020 by the EWG.

Price: 3 oz. SPF 50+ Thinksport Safe Sunscreen, $12.99


Raw Elements SPF 30 Face + Body Tube
Image courtesy of Raw Elements

Raw Elements

Raw Elements really lives up to its name because this is the cleanest formula I’ve ever seen.

It’s Face + Body Tube SPF 30 has just one active ingredient (non-nano zinc oxide) and added nutrients such as sunflower oil, coffee bean, green tea, and cocoa butter. The formula is USDA certified organic and is sure to moisturize the skin.

Price: 3 oz. SPF 30 Face + Body Tube, $18.99


Badger SPF 40 Protect Land & Sea Sunscreen Cream Tube
Image courtesy of Badger

Badger

Badger has so many different options for sunscreen depending on your specific needs. There are products specifically for athletes, clear formulas for those who want to avoid white residue, and a formula specifically for babies and kids. You are bound to find an option that works best for you!

They are so transparent about their manufacturing processes, they even have a video on their website to show how they make their sunscreen.

Price: 2.9 oz. SPF 40 Protect Land & Sea Sunscreen Cream Tube, $17.99


There are plenty of options to soak up the sun that are both safe for your body and the environment! ☀️

Local Outfit Challenge

Inspired by the One Year, One Outfit challenge, I am challenging myself to create a locally sourced and made outfit over the next year, and I invite you to join too!

The challenge is to create a 3 pieces from local materials and skills. Your “outfit” can be garments and/or accessories and it doesn’t have to be a complete outfit, just 3 pieces that you would love to have in your wardrobe. So for example your “outfit” could be a sweater, scarf, and hat, or a skirt, cardigan, and socks – pick items you know you will love and get a lot of use from!

I also want to add that if 3 items feels intimidating or is too much for you, just start with one, you can still take part!

The “Rules”

Ideally the goal is to source everything from fibres to finished garment locally, but depending where you live that might not be possible and that’s okay, it’s about trying your best! Certain things might just not be available in your region and in that case expand your area, look in nearby regions or your country.

If you can’t find something, for example things like buttons, thread or zippers are likely not manufactured locally, you can get it elsewhere, but try to support small, local businesses (like a independent fabric shop) for supplies where possible.

Overall the idea is to learn about and support textile producers and makers in your area, and get some beautiful special pieces from your region and community.

Where to Start

Check and see if you have a local Fibershed this is a great to way to find local farms, producers, and makers in your area! But if it doesn’t show up on the map, also search “fibershed” and your region/province/state because many (like mine) have started up without being official affiliates.

(I also highly recommend reading the book Fibershed by Rebecca Burgess for some information and inspiration)

The best place to start is figuring out what types of fibres are available to you and if there are any local mills or spinners selling yarn or fabrics – if there aren’t any commercial mills, look into local weavers and spinners guilds to connect with.

Figuring out the type of material you have to work with is a huge step and you can then plan what to make!

Let’s do this Together

I’ve set up a “Local Outfit” challenge board in the MGC community forum as a place to connect, share updates, and resources for anyone wanting to take part.

You can also use the hashtags #OneYearOneOutfit and #MyLocalOutfit (created for this particular challenge) on Instagram to share updates!

FAQs

I don’t sew or knit/crochet, can I still take part?

Yes! This challenge isn’t only for DIYers. You can connect with local designers, sewers, knitters, or textile artists to have your piece(s) made – it’s an incredible way to get a unique garment and support your local makers.

What about dyeing?

It’s your choice if you want dyed materials or not, many natural fibres are beautiful undyed!

You can look into getting dyed materials or dye them yourself. Ideally you can also use local, natural dyes.

Budget?

It’s important to know going into this challenge that sourcing and making local garments is almost certainly going to be more expensive than your average mass-produced clothes, however try to view this as an opportunity to invest in an incredibly special and unique heirloom garment.

I would recommend deciding on a budget that works for you and letting that guide your project. So your budget might influence if you make 1, 2, or 3 pieces, what kind of materials you use and where you get them from, what types of garments you go with, etc.

After you find local suppliers and makers, get quotes from them so you know approximately what the costs will be before moving forward with your garment creation.


Any other questions? Let’s chat!

35 Sustainable Micro-Habits to Try Out

Forming micro-habits takes two minutes or less, but can make a world of difference. 

If you’re looking for ways to be more sustainable but don’t want to overhaul your life right now, there are small ways that you can make a difference to your own life and those around you. 

These small habits are things you usually didn’t notice before, but can help you be more eco-friendly in just a few short steps. 

According to Harvard Business Review, micro-habits are much more realistic and easier to do in the short term than big resolutions and can actually be the stepping stones you need to get to make bigger resolutions in future. 

Here are some ideas:

  • Don’t leave the water running when you brush your teeth. Your mom might have told you this as a kid, and it’s for good reason. 
  • Have showers instead of baths. You don’t have to fill an entire bathtub with water.
  • Time your showers. Do you really need a 30-minute shower where you sing to your shampoo bottles? Avoid water waste by cutting those showers short.
  • Collect shower water or grey water in a bucket and use it to water your plants. It’s as simple as putting a bucket in the shower while you lather up, so nothing is wasted and your garden still gets some love. 
  • Only do laundry when you have a full load. Conserve energy and water by making sure you don’t do laundry unless necessary. Your bank balance will thank you too. 
  • Let clothes dry in the sun if possible. Who needs the dryer at all?! Put your clothes out in the sun and let them dry the natural way. You’ll save yourself so much money and energy in not using your dryer and your clothes will smell great!
  • When washing dishes in the sink, make sure you fill the sink first instead of just running water. Don’t let all that water just run down the drain. Fill the sink with soapy water and wash them properly. Rinsing before they go into the dishwasher? Fill the sink with some water and use that to rinse dishes. 
  • Only use your dishwasher when you have a full load. It saves time, energy and money!
  • Save leftovers instead of throwing them away and make a second meal from them. If they’re still good, then make another meal from them. There are many interesting blogs and even TV shows about how to great another great meal from your leftovers.
  • Set aside money for donations. Five dollars might not be a lot, but it could really help your favorite organization whether it be an animal shelter or an eco-friendly NGO. 
  • Turn off lights, aircon in rooms that no one is using/that are unnecessary. You’ll save a lot o your electricity bill, plus you’ll be saving the earth. 
  • Stop buying plastic bottles. Bottle your own water. By using a water filter and stainless steel or glass bottles you can save money and keep plastic bottles out of the landfills.
  • Use LED bulbs. They’re low energy and last much longer, plus they can be recycled. 
  • Buy in bulk. You’ll not just save time and money, but also waste less packaging and your carbon footprint will be small. 
  • Keep a reusable tote (or three) for when you’re shopping. Using cloth tote bags will help keep plastic waste down and they’re more durable. Plus, if there’s a spill, you can just throw them in the laundry. 
  • Grab your coffee in a reusable mug. While there are some places that use recyclable coffee cups, one use cups are still not great for the environment. If you’re a regular coffee drinker, save the environment and some money with your own reusable mug. 
  • Don’t print anything you don’t absolutely have to. And if you do have to print anything, recycle paper where you can. 
  • Use cloth napkins instead of paper ones or paper towels. Paper napkins up to a month to decompose in the trash. Cloth napkins are far better and cheaper. 
  • Buy local. When you buy local produce, you save money on shipping costs, get fresher produce, and support local farmers.
  • Pay your bills online and go paperless with important documents. No having to travel around to pay your bills and no printing pages upon pages of documents when you can just save the documents to your devices and the cloud. 
  • Consider having one meat free day a week. A meat free diet really helps the environment, but even going meat-free once a week really helps lower carbon emissions as less land is needed to produce vegetables. 
  • Buy products without packaging if possible. Use that tote bag and buy loose veggies instead.
  • Ask yourself if you really need that shiny new thing. Shop for stuff that you know for sure you need them and will be using them often and for long. This will reduce wastefulness.
  • Buying second hand [or join a freecycle group]. Using preloved items promotes the reduction of waste within a community. You also get to save money.
  • Use reusable containers wherever possible. Get a lunchbox that you can use every day, ask restaurants if you can take your leftovers home in reusable containers, store your pantry items in reusable containers.
  • Get a reusable stainless steel straw. Many places are no longer using plastic straws. You can save your need for them by getting yourself a metal one that can be attached to your keys or carried in your handbag and reused. 
  • Water your plants and garden early in the morning. Watering your plants in the morning requires less water as the temperatures are cooler. Evaporation is less in the morning compared to evenings so less water is wasted.

No one says you HAVE to start doing all of these now, but doing small, sustainable things daily eventually become great habits and you’ll see your life improve for the better. Plus, there’s that great feeling of knowing that you’re doing little things to help the environment every day. So go forth and start your micro-habits today and see how they make a difference in your life and that of the planet. 

What Real (not Greenwashing) Circularity in Fashion Looks Like

This post is kindly sponsored by Tonlé, thanks for supporting the amazing brands that partner with My Green Closet!

Awareness around sustainable fashion is growing and customers are demanding more responsible products. A recent survey found 67% of consumers consider sustainable materials as part of their purchasing decisions and 63% take a brand’s general approach to sustainability into account. And brands are responding to these demands, both with genuine efforts but also unfortunately an increase in greenwashing.

“Circularity” has become a big buzzword with sustainability and while it can represent a new, important shift in the industry, it’s also used in misleading and deceptive ways. Companies sticking a clothing collection box in their stores or using a bit of recycled materials does not magically make them “circular”.

We need brands to go deeper and make real, holistic changes that aren’t just for marketing and press coverage. If a brand truly cares about reducing their impact and waste and helping build a better industry they need to be looking at the entire supply chain and life of the garments.

Circularity is so much more than Recycling

The concept of circularity in fashion is often misunderstood – we typically see it as taking the “waste” or end of a garment’s life and bringing that back around to the start of the supply chain ie. recycling the materials into a new garment, but it’s so much more.

Tonlé is a brand I love where circularity is threaded through all stages of their business. Unlike many “sustainable” brands who use an eco-friendly fabric and call it a day, the brands I really trust and respect are those where sustainably is a core value – brands like Tonlé who are constantly challenging the status quo and looking for innovative solutions while producing garments with heart, soul, care, and compassion.

Tonlé is a great example and case study to learn more about circular fashion.

Circularity Starts with Design

Products need to be designed with intention, for longevity, and with it’s next use in mind, otherwise there is no chance at a successful circular system.

From the beginning designers need to be thinking about how the garments can have as long of a life as possible. This might involve decisions such as:

  • Ignoring trends and instead developing a signature, timeless style for the brand
  • Paying attention to customer feedback
  • Designing with versatility in mind
  • Testing and selecting high-quality fabrics
  • Possibly opting for seasonless collections
  • Selecting high quality sewing and finishing techniques
  • Considering options for end-of-life, extending use, and upcycling/recycling

While brands might have different design directions, the commonality is intentional and thoughtful design which considers the greater impact of the garments. Tonlé incorporates many of these elements as well as always looking for ways to learn, grow, and offer more inclusive designs.

Your Greenwashing is Showing

With fast fashion, “circularity” initiatives are flawed right from the start – highly trend-driven, poor quality pieces, and a high-turnover model for design, production, and consumption just has no chance at being successfully circular and part of a regenerative and restorative system.

If a brand is claiming circularity while constantly having new products in stores or over-producing billions of dollars of unsold clothing, it just doesn’t add up.

Materials & Fabrics

When we view fabrics from a circularity standpoint, some key characteristics are:

  • Quality – poor quality materials are unfortunately most likely to quickly become waste
  • “Waste” Recovery/Reuse- can materials that might otherwise end up as trash be rescued and further utilized?
  • Recycled/Regenerated – can fabrics made from recycled materials be used? (although it’s important to note that recycling things like plastic bottles into clothing has it’s own issues and is more of a interrupted cycle or down-cycling system than a restorative, circular one)
  • End-of-life – What happens when the material is no longer usable in it’s state?
    • Can it be reused or repurposed in some way?
Dyed fabrics drying at Tonlé’s studio in Phnom Penh

Brands can take different paths regarding their fabric choices and circularity. For Tonlé it means reclaiming and utilizing offcuts, “scraps”, and deadstock fabrics, turning them into beautiful and useful garments. This not only saves the resources of creating new fabrics but allows textile waste to circle back into the system.

Production

A lot of textile waste is generated during production from leftover fibres and yarns in the spinning and weaving process, to cutting scraps and snipped threads.

While this is typically trash, brands like Tonlé have an innovative zero waste production process; cutting scraps are collected and handwoven into unique garment, accessories, and home decor and even the too-tiny scraps and threads are saved and turned into paper!

It’s also important for brands to be mindful about how much they’re producing. Small batch production, made-to-order garments, or pre-sales are ways that brands can help ensure they aren’t producing too much.

Tonlé artist completing a wall hanging made from fabric scraps

Unwanted, Worn, & Damaged Garments

It’s not enough to just put a garment out into the world, sustainable brands should be conscious of it’s life-cycle and trying to prevent more textile waste from ending up in the landfill. Some ways brands can take responsibility for apparel waste are:

To help address this, Tonlé runs their Open Closet a store for pre-loved Tonlé pieces. People can trade in their used clothes which are resold, repaired, or turned into new pieces. It’s not only a wonderful way to reduce waste and keep clothing in the cycle but also a way to get a beautiful Tonlé garment at a lower price point, win-win!

Tonlé even uses sustainable, plastic-free packaging for shipping their products

True Circularity Means an Overhaul of the Industry

Waste is essentially part of all stages of clothing manufacturing and use (even while wearing and washing our garments we’re shedding tiny bits of waste ). Unfortunately the faster and cheaper garments become the less ability and incentive there is to reduce or recover that waste and bring it back into the cycle.

One example of how the industry has changed for the worse: traditionally fabric cutting would be optimized to use the least material possible (patterns were carefully jigsawed together to reduce waste and fabric costs), however this takes more time and with the speed of fashion now, it’s more important for factories to get the pieces cut as quickly as possible instead of efficiently using the fabric. Tonlé founder Rachel Faller said they often find huge offcut pieces leftover from brands – enough to cut long dresses or multiple garments from!

Rachel also told me about how a lot of the deadstock materials comes from factories over-ordering, (but not at the fault of the factory). Due to the quick production pace, factories don’t have time to order the appropriate amount of fabric after getting all the finalized numbers and info from the brand, like they would have pre-fast fashion. Instead they need to have enough fabric on hand to immediately meet the demands of the brand, because saying, “we can’t do that” or “it will take longer” could mean a lost contract, not being able to pay wages, and the brand going to another factory.

Like guest writer Hannah Neumann shared in a recent post, “Not only do the producers behind our clothes make the least amount of profit within the fashion supply chain, they also have the highest risk and least protection. “

The insane demands brands put on factories mean so much unnecessary waste is created simply to save a little time or money.

And then there’s also the misguided emphasis on textile recycling. Textile recycling is still very flawed, but fast fashion brands are using it to encourage guilt-free shopping. Harmful “Wear Recycle Repeat” type messaging promotes the idea that you can buy endless amounts of clothing and it’s sustainable because you’re recycling it.

We unfortunately have a long way to go regarding true circularity in the industry, new approaches and systems desperately need to be incorporated to foremost reduce, and then also recover and effectively recycle waste.

However it’s inspiring to see small, sustainable brands like Tonlé who are forging their own path, collaboratively developing and designing innovative systems, taking on challenges, and continuing to push themselves.

Things can be different and circularity in fashion can be so much more than a greenwashing buzzword!

💚

Learn more about Circularity in Fashion: Ellen MacArthur Foundation Towards the Circular Economy Report

What It’s like to Produce Garments in a Pandemic

Editor’s note: We might hear bits and pieces about how garment factories and workers have been affected by the pandemic, but what have things really been like?
Hannah Neumann is a former ethical fashion blogger who started up the sustainable, worker-led, manufacturing cooperative TELAstory in the Philippines. She kindly agreed to write this post, sharing how the past year has been for TELAstory and also what we and the apparel industry as a whole need to learn from this experience.

Early 2020 Covid-19 lockdown in Manila, Philippines, was eerily quiet. Roads were blockaded.  The only people out and about for essential errands were the one member per household holding government-issued paper passes. Police and military kept a vigilant eye out for unauthorized travellers and rule-violators. A full year later, we are still within one of the world’s longest and strictest quarantines, and still, there is no light at the end of the tunnel in sight. Yesterday, we hit a foreboding milestone in the country’s Coronavirus saga- the highest new case count in a single day. The situation isn’t improving, and no help is on the way. 

Manufacturing clothing here in the Philippines in the midst of a global pandemic has compounded every challenge we already faced as a less than two year old garment manufacturing business. Fighting industry standards to give more power and better profit to Filipina workers is a monumental task even in the best of circumstances– a global pandemic just added to our list of obstacles! 

TELAstory pre-pandemic

One Year Ago

Within the first week of lockdown in March 2020, TELAstory had to quickly pivot and come up with a new production model and business plan. By the second week of lockdown, we’d lost over 70% of 2020’s orders (either cancelled or delayed indefinitely), and without a substantial emergency fund or access to any government aid we knew we had to act quickly. Public transportation in our city was completely shut down, and none of us at TELAstory have cars. We quickly cleared out our manufacturing space and sent all of our machinery and equipment to our workers’ homes so they could work safely, and we started working on patterns for masks and PPE.

Sending photos of mask prototypes over facebook messenger, & a TELAstory seamstress working from home

We started a fundraiser to help pay for our workers’ wages while we sewed PPE for local hospitals and masks for our neighborhoods. We received a beautiful outpouring of support, but in a time of so much fear and need we only raised about $1300, just a little over a week’s salary for our full time employees. Selling masks was more effective, and we managed to keep afloat for several months by shipping box after box to the US and Australia. 

For many months, we questioned if we would even survive as a business. Moving from producing products together in a common space, with many hands and eyes to catch mistakes and collaborate on designs to handling production, design, and quality control remotely was a logistical nightmare. Without a vehicle of our own, we were spending far too much on motorcycle couriers ferrying materials back and forth. We carried massive boxes of product miles on foot to the nearest open shipping office since we couldn’t just hop in a taxi.

In our facebook messenger group chat, the TELAstory Titas (our seamstresses) sent GIFs; “every gising is a blessing!” (each new day is a blessing) in multicolored font. Another, accompanied by a smiling baby; “Keep safe. Smile, it will make you feel better. Pray, it will keep you strong”

Of course, the entire fashion industry was suffering, not just our small team. We watched as retailers’ sales dropped and brands struggled… the difference was that brands could pull out from orders (as we personally experienced), stop spending money, and in many cases, save themselves.

The pandemic exposed the broken system of the fashion industry right down to it’s ugly skeleton. Not only do the producers behind our clothes make the least amount of profit within the fashion supply chain, they also have the highest risk and least protection. 

What We Can Learn

Running a garment business in a pandemic has really driven home several points that I believe are crucially important to open up a dialogue on in response to the pandemic’s impact on producers; risk- sharing, profit margins, and collaborative and mutually respectful partnerships.

Sharing Risk

Remember the first two weeks of lockdown, when 70% of our booked orders disappeared? In the 4 weeks prior to the Philippines’ lockdown, in preparation for the next six months, TELAstory had just hired 3 new full time workers, purchased several new machines. We’d also recently moved our lease to a bigger and more expensive space. It was absolutely devastating to us as a business to have these elevated expenses after the pandemic hit. But that’s the way the fashion production industry works.

Kim Van Der Weerd of Manufactured podcast explains this beautifully in the context of larger factories in a recent explainer video– Manufacturers have to make “irreversible financial decisions” on hiring new employees, buying supplies, holding space in the production line, etc based on the orders that are forecasted by the clients, far before orders are finalized and contracts are signed. When disaster hits, who is hurt the most? We need to come up with a better system where producers have more power and the brands have more risk.

Profit Margins 

TELAstory pays some of the highest wages I know of within the small-scale sustainable manufacturing world here in the Philippines, which makes our profit margins extremely lean. This is the only way we can both pay our workers a TRUE living wage, and book clients. We’d love to have a bigger profit margin, as a company, but it’s just not feasible within the current system. Raise profit margins, and prices go up. When prices go up, clients go elsewhere- even clients focused on sustainability and fair wages. There will always be another ethical workshop or sustainable factory with a lower price.

Part of what makes it so difficult to raise prices to a more healthy profit margin (still modest, but enough to build up an emergency fund for our employees and invest in building better infrastructure), is the secrecy surrounding wages and lack of open dialogue, even between responsible brands. Banding together and establishing a better universal standard for what constitutes fair pricing would help reduce “race to the bottom” attitudes. In order for TELAstory to make a more fair profit, we need more transparency within the industry as a whole, not just from a select few players. 

Collaborative and Respectful Partnerships

Now more than ever, it’s so important for brands working with producers to be understanding and foster a strong mutually trusting and collaborative relationship with producers. Engaging in fashion as a brand or designer is an immense privilege. Having access to time to create and dream, access to build a supporter base of shoppers, having capital to place an order or access to fair-interest business loans… The burden of hard, low-compensation labor for fashion production falls mostly on the shoulders of black and brown women who live paycheck to paycheck.

There have been times that I’ve seen members of my team cry together over an impossible demand or from a brand, feeling more like machines than valued human beings. Clients often want us to cut corners, lower prices, pass less expense on to them. Garment workers are such an essential part of any brands’ story. We sew the $6.00 dress that enables a new ethical brand to sell it for $99.00. When there’s an issue with fabric supply, a pandemic shipping delay, or any number of issues, there’s little understanding and room for collaboration and mutual problem-solving.

In the wake of this pandemic, especially, I want to see more honoring of the difficult work that garments workers do for the profit of their clients. I want to hear more clients say “this is my budget, here is the maximum I can alot for fair-wage sewing costs” rather than “how low can you go?”. It is so essential to build up equitable treatment and compensation for players in every aspect of the garment industry. With privilege comes responsibility. 

Surviving and Looking Ahead

So, where is TELAstory at, now? We’re still here, we’re still fighting. Day to day, operations are still stunted by the effects of lockdown. Many of our local suppliers have been shut down or are constantly out of stock on essentials. We have to travel farther to find basic sewing supplies, or order from overseas. Without a vehicle, we still spend alot on safe and effective transportation, but we’ve found other areas to cut down on expenses. Many things in Manila are significantly more expensive than they were a year ago, from food to international shipping costs. 

Even though our local COVID situation has worsened, overseas orders have slowly increased as other countries begin to move toward normalcy. We’ve launched half a dozen brands in the last six months through our Launch Your Line program– the slowing of orders from regular clients gave us time to really focus on working with aspiring designers, whether or not they have any background in fashion, to produce some really beautiful collections- from responsibly made and well-fitting scrubs to a Filipino-heritage inspired line by a talented artist who designed her own textile prints! We’re also beginning to connect to a larger network of makers outside our own team (hence our name change from TELAstory to TELAstory Collective) to expand into accessories and home goods manufacturing.

Yes, the pandemic has brought us new challenges, but also new dreams for how we can dismantle elements of an outdated and unequal system and keep building something better in its place.

You can learn more about our work on our website or by following us on Instagram.




Spring/Summer Capsule Wardrobe 2021

This capsule is not only built around comfort and working from home, but I’m also chatting in the video about weight gain and pieces that can accommodate fluctuating weight and body changes.

Items in my Capsule

(please note: some affiliate links may be used in this post)

Tops

Bottoms


Dresses & Jumpsuits

Layers & Outerwear

  • Rust cardigan – Eileen Fisher
  • Beige cardigan – very old
  • Red printed maxi kimono/robe – Tamga Designs
  • Grey hoodie – tentree
  • Oversized wool coat – NAZ
  • Oversized jean jacket – secondhand

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