It’s time to Stop Using Fabric Softeners & Dryer Sheets

I recently did an Instagram story about why you shouldn’t use fabric softener after buying a pair of secondhand leggings that were full of it. There were a lot of further questions and requests to have the information somewhere more permanent, so here it is! 🙂

Let’s cut right to it, you shouldn’t use fabric softeners. They’re not only bad for your clothes (especially athletic wear which we’ll get into) but also not great for your health or the environment, it’s just not worth it. Fabric softeners became popular in the mid-1900’s because the dyes, detergents, and dryers were harsh on clothes making them rough and scratchy. However with better technology, fabrics, and detergents they’re no longer necessary, yet still very commonly used and most people don’t think twice about it.

How they work

Fabric softeners typically come in 2 different forms – a liquid used in the washing machine or a coated sheet used in the dryer. They are designed to prevent static, help with wrinkles, add a scent, and make the materials feel softer. They do this by covering the fabric in a thin, lubricating film. This coating prevents static by making the garments slippery to reduce friction and the softener adds a positive charge to neutralise the negative static charge. It also helps to separate the fibres making things like towels fluffier. Additionally they are typically scented and designed so the scent will remain in the fabric. Sounds nice, so…

Why are they bad for your clothes?

You might have noticed on some tags, especially with performance clothing, they specifically say NOT to use fabric softeners. This is because the waxy coating can interfere with moisture wicking and absorption properties – athletic fabrics are designed to wick moisture from the skin to the outside of the fabric where it can evaporate, but if you cover the fabric in a waxy coating it’s like plugging up a drinking straw and blocks the ability to move moisture. The coating also builds up over time making it harder for water and detergent to permeate the fabric so odours and stains are more difficult to get out and become sealed in. I get questions about why workout clothes can still have a smell even after washing, and my first response is always to ask if the person uses fabric softeners/dryer sheets, which is almost always the problem.

Although the fabrics might feel extra soft and nice at first, this build-up of fatty film overtime makes fabrics less absorbent. This is especially a problem with towels which obviously need to absorb a lot of moisture, as well as bed linens and underwear/base-layers which absorb sweat for comfort.

Fabric softeners can also stain your clothes, liquid softeners can occasionally leave blueish or grey stain spots on garments and overtime the waxy build-up can also cause yellowing on whites.

Finally they can leave residue in your machines which isn’t good for the machines and also means you can get fabric softener residue on clothes even when you’re not using it in that load.

 

They’re also not particularly safe…

For you

Studies have found that liquid fabric softeners can actually make fabrics more flammable, which no one wants.

One of the biggest issues with fabric softener is that they contain fragrance and the ingredients of fragrance don’t have to be disclosed, so we don’t know what exactly is in the product and there’s the potential they can contain toxic ingredients. Although in some countries like Canada cleaning products actually don’t have to disclose all ingredients anyway so it’s not just the fragrance where there are transparency issues.

Also a major ingredient in a lot of fabric softeners is Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs or “quats”) which are used to help combat static but can cause skin and respiratory irritation. Studies of medial professionals who used cleaning products with quats (they are also anti-bacterial) found an increase in asthma in those who were regularly exposed to them.

For the environment

QACs don’t easily biodegrade, especially in water, and can be toxic to aquatic organisms.This is obviously extra worrisome since as a laundry product they go directly into out water systems.

Fabric softeners can also contain petroleum or palm oil derived ingredients. They also might not be cruelty-free/vegan – an ingredient found in some fabric softeners is Dihydrogenated tallow dimethyl ammonium chloride which is derived from animal fat.

I also wonder if the coating and synthetic compounds in fabric softeners effects the biodegradability of clothing but haven’t been able to find any studies on it.

What are some alternatives?

Air-dry your clothes, it helps reduce static! I also really encourage air-drying because it not only saves a lot of energy (and $) but really increases the longevity of your clothes. There’s less rubbing and wear, colour fading and shrinkage from heat, plus dryers break down spandex/elastane faster causing your clothes to become misshapen, and they cause microscopic damage to the fabric – just look in the lint tray, those are all fibres that have been broken off or pulled from the fabric! Air-dryed clothes will definitely feel less soft than using a dryer or especially if you’re used to fabric softeners, but you can try just putting them in the dryer for few minutes to fluff them up if that’s a problem.

If you NEED to use a dryer, wool dryer balls can not only help soften your clothes but also cut down on drying time which saves energy. I’ve also heard of people adding essential oils to their dryer balls for some scent, but make sure you don’t use too much/stain your clothes, and use oils that are okay with heat. Some people also say dryer balls help with static – I haven’t tried them but I’d love to hear if you use wool dryer balls and how they work!

Also don’t over-dry your clothes, the dryness is what causes static so taking clothes out when they just dry will help reduce static.

Avoid synthetic fabrics as these tend to be the ones with static issues, you can also keep your natural and synthetic garments separate to help with static – fluffy natural fibres rubbing against the synthetics builds up the static charge. It’s also a great idea to wash your synthetics in a Guppyfriend Bag which not only keeps them from rubbing against your other clothes but also catches the plastic microfibres they release into the water.

Another option I hear a lot about is adding a quarter or half cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle as a fabric softener (although be sure not to use with bleach), again I’ve never found the need for my clothes to be softer but if you’ve tried this I’d be interested in how it works!

As with any changes it takes some time to adjust, but everyone I know whose stopped using fabric softeners says they were basically just doing it out of habit or thought you were “supposed to” and having stopped won’t ever go back.

Remove fabric softener from clothing

Can you remove fabric softener already in clothes?

So I tried a few things on the leggings I bought that were full of fabric softener; first I washed them a couple times but this didn’t do much. Then I tried soaking them in water and castille soap for a few hours and this definitely made an impact although I could still smell the fabric softener. The most recent thing I’ve tried is soaking them in some vinegar and water and this also seemed to have helped a bit, but the smell is still there. Throughout this I’ve also been hanging them up on a drying rack to air-out as much as possible.

While I have definitely gotten rid of most of the smell (and it doesn’t give me a headache anymore just wearing them) it’s difficult to say if I’m only removing the fragrance or the actual fabric softener coating. The leggings still have a slightly waxy feel to them but it’s hard to gauge if any progress has been made. Hopefully as I keep wearing and washing them I can get rid of more of the softener but I don’t know if they’ll ever be back to the way they were originally.

If you have any other tips or suggestions for removing fabric softener please leave them in the comments!

 

💚

Clothing Dyed with Plants

(this post is kindly sponsored by Sustain)

I love natural dyeing, it not only is a beautiful process but it can be a lot safer for us and the environment. So I was thrilled when Kat from Sustain reached out to share her slow fashion brand that uses all natural dyes. It’s very hard to find brands even in the sustainable fashion world that naturally dye their fabrics. I think part of the reason is that customers and the industry are so used to synthetic dyes, some people don’t even know natural dyes are an option and there are misconceptions that they fade quickly, discolour, or won’t hold up (which we’ll get more into).

So how does natural dyeing work?

Dyes can be obtained from minerals, bugs, and plants – they can be extracted from roots, leaves, bark, wood, fruits, flowers, and fungi, even food waste like certain peels and pits can be used for dyeing. The dyes can come directly from the fresh plant or for more commercial dyeing they are typically in a dried, powdered, or extracted form.

Often fabrics are pre-treated with a mordant (which is French for “bite”) that helps the dye bind with the fabric and makes it more colourfast and long-lasting. Sometimes mordants are added to the dye bath and certain mordants can also be used to shift dyes to different colours. Sustain uses safer mordants like myrobalan (a medicinal Tibetan fruit), oak galls, alum, and soy milk, although it is important to know that some natural dyeing can use heavy metals so if you find naturally dyed products it’s often good to ask what has been used as a mordant.

The dye material is heated with water and steeped for a while to create a dye bath.

Then the mordanted fabric is added to the vat. It often needs to be stirred for even colour and given time to soak up the dye – typically the longer the fabric is left in the dye bath the deeper the colour will be. Dyes like indigo though are set when they oxidise so you have to repeatedly soak it in the bath and hang it up to deepen the colour.

After, the dyed fabric is rinsed to remove any excess dye, and dried. It might also go through other dyeing or printing processes, and then is ready to be cut into clothes!

naturally dyed pjs from Sustain

This pj set is dyed with a combination of chamomile, lavender, rose, myrobalan, and indigo. First they do the flower vat which creates a yellow colour and then the blue indigo vat which together results in a blue-ish green. The pjs initially were more blue but as I’ve worn and washed them they’ve shifted a bit more green which I think is really cool. Some natural dyes will change a bit over time and some are even ph sensitive – I definitely made a mistake using red cabbage (highly ph sensitive) as a dye once which you can see in this video. We’re so used to synthetic dyes that any slight variances in colour are unfortunately often seen as “flaws” – it’s not uncommon for entire shipments of styles to be sent back (aka trashed) if the colour isn’t an exact match. With natural dyeing though likely no dye bath will be identical, little things like the water used or when the plants were harvested can all impact the colour and I think those variances and changes are part of what makes the pieces special and unique. 😊

Something else I really love is Sustain is even conscious of their water use. For these pjs the leftover flower water is used in their garden where they grow dye plants like marigold, weld, madder root, and indigo, and they keep their indigo vat for months, just adding more dye and water as needed instead of starting from scratch every time.

Sustain dyes some of their products in-house but also carries garments made with an ayurvedic dyeing process which is part of an Indian tradition passed down through generations. The ayurvedic dyeing only mordants with tannins from the plants, uses the whole plants for dyeing, and at lower temperatures to preserve the beneficial properties of the plants.

The tank is made from organic cotton that has been dyed with pomegranate peels and rhubarb – both of which have antimicrobial properties.

But doesn’t it fade?

First thing to remember is all dyes fade overtime – one of the common reasons people replace items is because they’ve faded, how often do people complain that their black clothes aren’t true black anymore? It’s a misconception that naturally dyed clothes are not colourfast. You can see garments in museums from hundreds of years ago that still have their colour! While natural dyes can fade over time, different dyes will hold up better than others (indigo and madder for example are very long-lasting) and most synthetic dyes aren’t colourfast either.

Like with conventionally dyed clothes, there are some things you can do to preserve the colour:

  • wash in cold water
  • use a ph-neutral and eco-friendly detergent
  • avoid storing/hanging in direct sunlight

Natural dyes do typically have a softer quality to the colour – you won’t get a hot pink or neon orange, but they also seem to have a richness to them that I think you can’t really replicate with synthetics. Plus I find it is so cool knowing my clothes were dyed with plants, and also knowing there aren’t harmful chemicals like NPEs or azo compounds hiding in the fabric or being dumped into the water – I have a video more about toxic chemicals in clothing.

natural dyed pjs from Sustain

Additionally, all of Sustain’s garments are ethically made in LA and they ensure safe conditions and fair wages for the workers making and dyeing the textiles.

They have a beautiful selection of staples and basics in a range of naturally dyed colours, as well as a collection of undyed organic garments for those with very sensitive skin. They even have a ‘non-conformists’ line of one-of-a-kind pieces.

Thank you so much to Sustain by Kat for sponsoring this post! I love being able to share and talk about natural dyeing 😊

Read more about my favourite dyes and how I fell in love with natural dyeing. 

Fall 2018 Capsule Wardrobe

(please note: this post contains some affiliate links)

Now that we’re living in a totally new climate I’ve had to re-think my capsule wardrobe a bit. So far this autumn we’ve had both beautiful warm days as well as snow and temps dipping into the negatives. Since it can be quite unpredictable I’ve really focused on good layers with this capsule so hopefully I can layer up or down as the temperatures require.

fall capsule wardrobe layers

The items I chose for my fall capsule wardrobe:
  1. Olive/tan tank – Sustain
  2. Blue tank – secondhand
  3. Velvet bodysuit – Underprotection (read a brand review)
  4. Navy tee – Lanius
  5. Grey linen tee – secondhand
  6. Black tee – Funktion Schnitt 
  7. Long shirt – ArmedAngels
  8. Plaid draped shirt – secondhand
  9. Striped oversized shirt – secondhand
  10. Red knit top – old
  11. Grey knit top – People Tree
  12. Blue cropped sweater – DIY/handknit
  13. Grey/brown sweater – Izzy Lane
  14. Rust cardigan – Eileen Fisher
  15. Beige cardigan – old
  16. Dark jeans – Mud Jeans
  17. Black pants – People Tree
  18. Cropped wool pants – secondhand
  19. Striped knit skirt  – secondhand from thredUP
  20. Linen skirt – NotPerfectLinen (read more about my love of linen)
  21. Ikat jumpsuit – Matter Prints (watch more about ikat and the jumpsuit)
  22. Silk romper – secondhand
  23. Draped wool dress – secondhand
  24. Grey tee dress – Kowtow
  25. Brown jacket – DIY/handmade
  26. Denim jacket – secondhand
  27. Grey jacket – NäZ
  28. Paisley scarf – secondhand
  29. Beige purse – Angela & Roi 
  30. Backpack – Matt & Nat (please read why I no longer support Matt & Nat)
  31. Black hat – secondhand
  32. Beige beret – DIY/handknit

Pieces in my fall 2018 capsule wardrobe

My capsule wardrobe is adapted from the Project 333 challenge. Over the course of creating many capsule wardrobes I’ve been fine-tuning them to figure out what works best for me. Last year I decided to no longer include shoes as part of my capsule wardrobe, I feel I have a good core “shoe capsule” and the one thing I occasionally seemed to miss was a certain pair of shoes. This has worked well this last year and I will continue to have a separate shoes from my wardrobe. My “shoe capsule” includes a pair of boots, heeled boots (which I need to replace and am currently searching for), sneakers, sandals, flats, formal heels and athletic/running shoes.

I also no longer try to hit a specific number, just build a wardrobe I think would work well. It usually ends up being around 30-35 pieces, often on the higher end in fall/winter and lower in spring/summer.

Hope you have a beautiful autumn 🍂

 

 

What Size Are Conscious Consumers Actually?

A vicious cycle happens in fashion – most new brands don’t have a customer base to develop sizes with so they turn to “standard size” guides for their patterns (which are surprisingly often based on sizing that was developed decades ago – some drafting manuals used today actually date back to the 70s and 80s!). Then because they only produce a limited size range designed for an “hourglass figure”, only women who fit that size can shop with them and that becomes their customer base. The brand might adjust fits slightly based on feedback, but it requires a lot of work and risk for brands to completely change or add fits and sizes so most will just stick with what they’re already doing.

On the consumer side I constantly hear in messages and comments on my videos and instagram about how women want to shop more consciously but can’t find brands that carry their size or they have trouble ordering online (which is often the only way to access sustainable and ethical brands) due to recurring fit issues.

I understand the challenges on both sides – it must be incredibly frustrating as a consumer to want to buy from ethical brands but can’t because of their often very limited sizes/fits. For the brands, so much work and money goes into producing a collection that they have to sell to keep the business going. Brands often are required to order a minimum number of garments in each size (unless they produce in-house) so sticking to “standard” sizes and limiting styles is the safest choice and sometimes all a new brand can afford.

Is there a solution to this problem?

After hearing about these issues on both sides I decided to create a size survey to get some actual numbers and data. There’s a few things that I think are helpful to know and I hope will come out of the survey:

  • What sizes are conscious consumers actually? Are there sizes under-served in the market?
  • What body shapes are people? What % of measurements line up with the “standard” proportions used by most brands?
  • Does size/fit drastically differ between regions and ages?
  • What are the most common fit issues people have?how to measure bust

I’m hoping that with enough participants we can have a strong set of data on sizes, measurements, and fit issues. This information will be compiled and I’ll put together a post/report which hopefully will help brands develop sizing and fits and work better for conscious consumers and maybe also give brands more confidence to take risks on fits outside the “standards”. It also would be wonderful as a consumer to give feedback to brands about fits and sizes and have some stats to back it up.

But this only works with your help!

We need a large enough group of participants to get viable data so please fill out the survey through the link or below, it’s anonymous and should only take 5-10 minutes. Also please share this with anyone you know who shops or wants to shop from more conscious brands!

Let’s help shape a conscious fashion industry that actually considers people’s shapes!

Thank you so much for participating! 💚

 

Favourite Small-Batch Green Beauty Brands

When you first get into green beauty it’s mostly the big brands you hear about. Lush was definitely my (and probably most people’s) introduction to more natural products, then I found 100% Pure, and moving to Germany it was easy to get brands like Lavera and Weleda. However one of my favourite things now is discovering small, indie brands who make wonderful products. So I want to share a few favourites I’ve tried.

(Please note this post contains some affiliate links)

The Innate Life

This Canadian hair care brand started with only a few hair treatments but have slowly been expanding their range. They focus on beneficial herbs, botanical blends, and high quality ingredients. I’ve been using their products for over a year and a half and keep going back to them. While I love using their shampoo and conditioner, my top picks would actually be their scalp treatment – it’s amazing for dryness and to nourish your scalp, and also their rose hair elixir – a few drops can really help dry ends and frizziness.

The Innate Life hair oil

Since I have collaborated with them before, they also kindly gave me a discount code – if you use MYGREENCLOSET at checkout you can get 15% off your order! 🙂

 

 

Magic Organic Apothecary 

I first discovered this UK brand through the owner of The Choosy Chick (which is a great place to order it in North America). All of MOA’s skincare products are made in England with a strong focus on yarrow, which is a herb with a rich history of healing, that they combine with other herbal extracts and oils. Their Hello Sunshine body oil has been amazing for summer and has such a great bright, citrusy scent.

I’ve also really enjoyed their Aphrodite facial oil, but probably the product I love most is their Green Balm – it has been my go-to multi-purpose product especially when camping and road-tripping this summer. It can be used as an oil cleanser and to remove makeup and I’ve also found it great for any dryness (which I’m getting a lot more since moving back to dry Alberta) as well as bug bites, itchiness, redness/irritation, and I even put it on sunburns.

 

 

Oil + Water

This small batch skincare brand is all hand made in New York and I love their focus on minimal, high quality, beneficial ingredients. After trying out their starter set I fell in love with the gentle, moisturising skin care routine (you can watch a skincare video I did in partnership with Oil + Water here). My favourite product of theirs is probably the face oil; after experimenting with a lot of different oils I know that argan works really well for me which is the base of their oil, it absorbs nicely without being too heavy or greasy. The oil also contains other moisturising and calming ingredients like chamomile which is really helpful for the redness I get.

Additionally they have a beautiful face mist, clay mask, and soaps – basically everything I’ve tried I’ve loved. ☺️ Plus I also have a discount code – with MYGREENCLOSET10 you can get 10% off the Oil + Water line!

 

 

I love finding brands that value natural ingredients and work hard to create formulas that deliver all those beneficial plant properties to our skin and hair. Learning more about green beauty has been such a cool journey – it’s incredible all the amazing properties and things plants can do for our skin and bodies!

 

What are your favourite natural ingredients or indie green beauty brands?

💚

 

Photos using the products by Dennis Wilhelms Photography

Watching the World Burn

A couple weeks ago I experienced a forest fire. We were on a trip spending some time in the Okanagan which the night before had a huge lightning storm that started 20 fires in the area. There was a plume of smoke at the top of the mountain when we arrived and we watched it grow and move down the mountain throughout the day. Surreally we spent the evening sitting around with neighbours sipping wine and watching the glow of the fires and occasional columns of flames as whole trees caught. One was south of the town and another across the lake. We listened to updates of how our host’s friends down the road were being evacuated, reassurances that the fire wasn’t moving towards us and if winds changed there would be plenty of evacuation notice. Everyone was remarking how strange it is that something can be so devastating and beautiful at the same time, and it was weirdly beautiful to watch, the same way the flickering glow of a campfire is mesmerising. Binoculars were passed around and as the sun set the glow of the fires intensified.

Unlike the residents we had no home to worry about and all our belongings were basically packed up and ready to go. Our host came back with a stack of photo albums from their friend’s place and I considered what I would grab if a fire was moving towards our home, grateful to never have had to make that decision.

watching a forest fire in the Okangan
smoke from fires across the lake

We’ve left but the area is still burning; more evacuation orders have been put out but also fortunately rescinded and the last update I heard is that the one nearby fire reached over 1700 hectares but is being held. However the crazy thing is this is happening all over the world and at a much larger and more damaging scale. California is experiencing huge fires, and over in Europe Sweden seems to finally be on top of their fires (they had over 80), Greece’s fires have been tragically deadly, firefighters in Germany are using tanks because leftover WWII-era ammunition in the ground can be set off by the flames, and this is all exacerbated by a heatwave across Europe.

There’s no doubt that climate change will mean an increase in forest fires. A study commissioned by the EU found that with climate change dry areas are moving more north increasing forest fire risks. Areas of the sub-arctic in Canada, Sweden, and Latvia are burning and Greenland had a large fire last year just south of the ice sheet. According to this CBC Interview these arctic wildfires are even more difficult and damaging – peat moss releases large amounts of carbon dioxide when burned, the fires go deeper into the ground because of the moss and require more water, plus the soot and ash in the air blows north and blankets the arctic ice creating a dark surface and causing it to melt faster.

forest fire
photo: unsplash

Forest fires are only one reason on a very long list of why we need to care about climate change, be serious about implementing solutions, and stop politically polarising it.

I’m so thankful I have never had to live through a flood, fire, hurricane or any other natural disaster and can’t even imagine how terrifying and devastating it must be. Although I like to focus on positive stories and personal changes we can make to be more environmentally conscious I think it’s also important to remember why these changes are so important. Sitting by the lake with smoke blurring out the sun and the smell of burning everywhere, watching the fires, I couldn’t help thinking about how this planet is our only home, how we’ve carelessly abused it for so long, and how these kinds of natural disasters are likely going to keep increasing. We’ve already been setting record-breaking temperatures around the northern hemisphere this summer.

 

Now I don’t want to leave this post on such a heavy note and I like to focus on actionable things – so what can we do?
We all can definitely do our best to reduce our impact and I have lots of videos and other posts here on the blog about ways to do that, but something that is also really important is using your voice politically; contact your reps about climate policies and vote for people and parties who care about the environment and actually have plans and programs to help combat climate change. We need to demand our governments do better to protect our planet.

🌎

 

Dear Brands: I’m a Small Business Too

 

Hey brands, we need to talk.

Every day I wake up to emails and DMs that go something like this:

“We’re an eco-friendly/vegan/natural/fair company and we’d love if you shared a photo of our product on Instagram/wrote a blog post about us/made a video using our product!”

It’s really cool to see how many conscious brands there are now and how many are starting up, and if the company meets my criteria and seems like a good fit for My Green Closet, I typically respond back asking for more info and with a package about sponsored content options.

Then about 95% of the time the brand either completely ghosts or responds:

“We’re a small business and don’t have a budget to pay you.” 

But here’s the issue, I’m a small business too. My web hosting, camera, editing software, photographer, etc. all cost money, never mind paying myself for the typical 50+ hours I put into working on MGC each week.

Bloggers, Instagrammers, and Youtubers are often viewed like pitching newspapers or magazines where you can get free publicity for your brand, but the business model is completely different. We’re not paid a salary or rate per post and if there is any advertising/adsense revenue, it’s very minimal. So while traditional media uses their advertising to pay for writing and photographing a feature about you, most “influencers” don’t have a lot of or any alternate funding to cover that. The majority of revenue typically comes from sponsorships and in this eco/ethical niche it unfortunately seems very few brands are willing to pay for them.

The conscious brand and blogger relationship has to be a two-way street; creators can’t just be supporting brands, we should also be getting support back.

But you get “paid” in product!

First of all I know how bratty this might sound – complaining about getting stuff for free, 🙄 right? But please bear with me because there is a deeper issue and discrepancy here that brands, content creators, and consumers in the conscious fashion industry should be aware of. While sending out free products to influencers is a promoted and often advised way to market your brand for free/cheap it goes against some of the fundamental values we’re all claiming to support and work towards in a responsible fashion industry.

 

Conscious Creators Consume Consciously

Say that 5 times fast 😜

I’m probably at the more extreme end of this since I have a capsule wardrobe and live fairly minimally, but any creator who is promoting and actually living a more sustainable lifestyle knows the importance of mindful consumption. Having overflowing closets, drawers full of beauty products and piles of household goods, even if they’re eco friendly, still isn’t very sustainable.

There’s a balance to find as a blogger/youtuber though because people are looking for recommendations – if you’re thinking of purchasing something you want to make sure it meets your criteria and is something you’re going to like and use. The main mission of My Green Closet is to help and inspire people to live more sustainably and responsibly. One way of doing this is making it easier to shop in line with your values by sharing brands, products and better options. However I also have to to do this without going against my own values and ideas; how hypocritical would it be if I talk about consuming consciously and then every month share a new beauty line I’m using, have a totally new wardrobe each season, or post “hauls” (yes, I’ve had quite a few brands ask to be featured in a haul video 🤢).

If I said yes to every brand I like who wanted to send me stuff I would have a bursting closet and way more beauty and skincare products than I could ever use up, which is just wasteful! It is very exciting and encouraging to see how many sustainable brands and products are out there, but the main focus of my platforms is not to sell stuff.

I’m also trying to find other creative ways to share brands and products that I think the MGC audience would be interested in without compromising my own minimalist lifestyle. Doing things like borrowing clothes which can be sent back, only getting small samples of beauty products to try out first, or occasionally giving products to my Patrons/people who will use them, but I still have a set limit on how many partnerships I’ll do and that means only a tiny fraction of brands ever make the cut.

As a brand, if sending products to every conscious blogger out there is your marketing strategy be prepared for a lot of no-thank-yous. Most creators I know in this space only accept free product if it’s something they really want and likely would have purchased anyway. Be careful about influencers who say yes to any free product that’s offered, it’s important to do some research on who you’re contacting so you don’t get burned – there unfortunately are some “ethical” creators who use bots and fake followers and/or are just in it for the free stuff, so only approach creators you think are a good fit and align with your brands values, it’s not just about their numbers.

I know as a brand you need to sell your product, but you also need to give some thought to promoting conscious vs. mindless consumption or you’re just doing the same thing as fast fashion.

This also is important in your goals for a partnership, if you want to increase awareness about your brand and let people know about your beautiful products or the cool things you’re doing, great! Let’s talk 🙂 But if your goal is to have me get x number of people to purchase from you in the next week, I’m not interested. Promoting conscious consumption means I encourage people to think about their purchases and take time to make sure it’s something they will use and keep, not immediately buy the product (unless it’s actually the exact item they’ve been searching for).

 

Fair pay needs to include everyone

It’s hypocritical to tell me how you pay all your employees fairly for their work (which of course is very important) and then ask me to spend hours, sometimes days, filming and editing a video, taking photos, and/or writing content for you, unpaid.

Creators are helping you market your brand and should be part of your marketing budget. A ton of work goes into creating content for you and most of us are one-woman-shows; from researching, writing, editing, to styling, photographing, filming, modelling, responding to questions, and more, we’re doing it all! I assume you pay the models, photographers, social media staff, copywriters, etc. that do work for you, so why wouldn’t this extend to the bloggers and youtubers?

 

I also wonder if your business is okay

If you tell me you have zero budget for marketing it creates concerns and doubts about your business – all brands should have at least some marketing budget.

It makes me question if you’re serious about your company and mission and I worry if you’re still going to be around in a year with no strategy to market yourself. This is especially concerning if you work with artisans or disadvantaged communities – if you’re employing people without a stable business and long-term plan in place what happens to them if your brand doesn’t succeed?

I want to work with brands who are passionate about doing things better and who create amazing products, but also who are committed to building their conscious businesses. Having no marketing budget makes it seem like you’re not serious about growing your business.

 

Plus, rates are LOW

If you’re used to just giving out free product, paying for a sponsored post of course can seem expensive, but the reality is most creators in this conscious lifestyle space are charging a lot less than conventional influencers. There’s been talk among my fellow sustainable blogger friends about the need to raise our rates which are significantly lower than industry standards. While I of course believe creators deserve to be paid fairly for their work, I’ve been hesitant and slow to do this because it’s hard enough as is to get sponsors, and will only get harder with a rate increase, even if it is only moving closer to a more standard rate.

I’m also extremely fortunate and grateful because I have the most incredible Patrons helping support my content. Having a consistent bit of income each month means I at least know I can cover the basic costs of running MGC.

Additionally, I get some revenue from YouTube ads although I would LOVE to turn them off one day *fingers crossed* – it sucks having ads for brands I don’t support running on my videos, but currently I can’t keep making videos without them.

So thankfully not just sponsorships are solely funding My Green Closet which is why I’ve been able to keep going for 4 years, but most bloggers don’t have these supplementary revenue streams.

working on the computer

Guilt goes nowhere

Definitely don’t try to guilt or shame people into working for free. I’ve heard this from other bloggers too, when we ask for compensation for the work involved, the brand talks about how if we really cared about promoting ethical fashion we’d be happy to share their product. This is infuriating – there are so many amazing, dedicated creators in this space, working their asses off, giving up their free time to help spread awareness because it’s something they’re passionate about. Just because someone wants to spend their time talking about other topics instead of promoting your product doesn’t mean they don’t care about this movement.

Guilting and bullying people into sharing your brand by saying they’re lazy, greedy, or questing their commitment is just not cool. I promise you, if someone wants to make a lot of money and be lazy they don’t start an ethical fashion blog or youtube channel, people do this because they’re passionate about helping change things.

 

We succeed together

You have a mission to help improve the industry by doing things better and creating more responsible products. Myself and other creators have a mission to spread awareness and help educate and encourage people to live more consciously. We want to support the success of brands like you but it’s honestly hard and frustrating to do that when the majority of brands don’t want to support us back and often try to get things as cheap as possible or try to guilt creators into promoting them for free.

We both play a role in this complex puzzle and are ultimately working towards the same goals, so let’s work together.

 

It’s not everyone

I want to acknowledge that some brands are amazing to partner with and totally get that people working for them and helping promote them deserve to be fairly paid for their work, and also understand the value of influencer marketing and have a budget specifically for it. However based on the brands I’ve been in contact with unfortunately only about 5-10% fall into this category.

I also want to say that I don’t think most conscious brands are purposely trying to take advantage of bloggers. Getting free or very cheap promotion is seen as “good business”, brands brag about how little they spend on social media promotion, and I totally get that when budgets are tight you want to save pennies wherever possible. A lot of brands also don’t seem to understand the difference between a PR pitch and a marketing request – letting me know about you is fine, I can do what I want with that info, maybe ask for a product to test out and include you in content if it fits well. However asking to have a video made about you, for a blog feature, or for social media posts (especially by a deadline) is not a PR pitch, you’re asking for marketing content which should be paid.

 

Overall I just think brands just aren’t looking at the larger picture and the relationship they’re building with influencers, don’t understand how much work goes into making content, and don’t realise how many pitches and free product offers creators receive (I currently am getting 1-5 pitches every day), so hopefully this post sheds some light from a content creator’s perspective.

And for some other conscious blogger’s perspectives (who are all much more skilled and eloquent writers that I am, video is my main jam 🙃) check out:

Leotie Lovely, Why Bloggers Should be Paid Fairly

World Threads Traveler, My Role as an Influencer – Working with Brands and Why It Matters to You

Honestly Modern, Paying for Promotion: In The Spirit of Transparency

Style Wise, The Business of Blogging: Why Fair Trade Rhetoric Muse Include Bloggers

Ethical Unicorn, Working With Bloggers & Brands: A Mini Guide

Ecocult, The 11 Non-Negotiable Reasons Why You Need to Pay Influencers for Coverage

 

You can also hear more of my thoughts on how conscious brands can work better with bloggers, and what you can do with tights budgets in my Spirit of 608 podcast interview.

 

 

 

Plastic Free July

I’m doing the Plastic Free July challenge again! I’ve already talked about why I’m not zero waste, but I still think challenges can be a great way to learn and try out new things. Especially with our recent move back to Canada I’m excited to see what plastic free and eco-friendly options are available here. Things have also quieted down a bit this month so I’m also looking forward to having more time to test out some DIY recipes. 🙂

 

Setting a good foundation

With going plastic free, planning is definitely important so you can bring what you need. In addition to my essentials (water bottle, shopping bags, coffee cup) I’ll also try to bring snacks or maybe reuseable straws or cutlery depending where we’re going.

It also takes time to develop habits like asking for no straw or no bag, but I think a month-long challenge can be a great way to solidify some of those habits.

Plastic Free July must-haves

 

No one’s perfect

The downside to challenges like this though are that when you do forget or can’t figure out a plastic free alternative there can be guilt and feelings of failure. While I think a little dose of guilt can be helpful to remember next time, it’s important to move on and not dwell in those negative feelings. No one is perfectly sustainable and it’s about doing your best. Your living situation and what you have access too also plays a major role in how successful you can be at living plastic free. So focus on and celebrate the things you can do.

It’s a journey

More than anything I think this challenge is about being more aware of your plastic consumption and discovering ways you can make small changes.There are some amazing resources for getting inspiration and ideas:

💚 Going Zero Waste, Kathryn is seriously a one-stop shop for everything you could want to know about zero waste living and I love her approachable and non-judgemental attitude.

and because youtube is my first love, these are some great channels:

💚 Gittemary Johansen has a channel focused mainly on zero waste living, cooking, and travelling.

💚 Shelbizleee also has some great videos on sustainable and zero waste living.

💚 Alli Cherry, I love Alli’s channel and she has some lovely plastic free/zero waste videos.

and the Plastic Free July website has tons of great info and resources to help you out!

 

I’m sharing my Plastic Free July journey in weekly videos on Instagram’s new IGTV, the first week is now up and you can also see some of the low waste swaps and changes I’ve already made here.

Zero waste essentials

 

Please let me know if you’re also doing the challenge and how it’s going!

Summer 2018 Capsule Wardrobe

We’re settling into life in Canada and after about 10 years living in pretty cloudy places I’m really enjoying all the sun we get in Edmonton. ☀ Living in a new place also means thinking about my capsule a little differently due to the weather. We can get really hot and sunny days but also cool, cloudy days, and even some pretty intense rain/thunderstorms. So I had to plan for a good mix of clothes for different kinds of weather. I also needed a few new pieces for this capsule wardrobe and you can check out my video where I went secondhand shopping for them.

Also I’m now going into my 5th year of capsule wardrobes which is pretty crazy, I can’t believe how long it’s been!

outfit from summer capsule wardrobe

The items in my summer 2018 capsule wardrobe:

  1. Blue tank – secondhand
  2. Draped tank – old, upcycled from a dress
  3. Purple tank – Comazo Earth
  4. Navy tee – Lanius
  5. White linen tee – Lanius (read more about my love of linen)
  6. Brown oversized tee – old
  7. Black tee – Funktion Schnitt 
  8. Long shirt – ArmedAngels
  9. Striped oversized shirt – secondhand
  10. Plaid draped shirt – secondhand
  11. Beige cardigan – old
  12. Denim jacket – secondhand
  13. White oversized jacket – old
  14. Green shorts – ArmedAngels
  15. Black denim shorts – secondhand
  16. Blue Tencel pants – Recolution*
  17. Dark jeans – Mud Jeans*
  18. Linen skirt – NotPerfectLinen* (read more about my love of linen)
  19. Yellow skirt – handmade & dyed
  20. Ikat jumpsuit – Matter Prints* (more about ikat and the jumpsuit)
  21. Silk romper – secondhand
  22. Floral dress – handmade
  23. Grey/black tank dress – old
  24. Grey tee dress – Kowtow
  25. Beige purse – Angela & Roi 
  26. Backpack – Matt & Nat (please read why I no longer support Matt & Nat)
  27. Black hat – secondhand
  28. Beige hat – old

Summer 2018 capsule wardrobe pieces

My capsule wardrobe is adapted from the Project 333 challenge. Over the course of creating many capsule wardrobes I’ve been fine-tuning them to figure out what works best for me. Last year I decided to no longer include shoes as part of my capsule wardrobe, I feel I have a good core “shoe capsule” and the one thing I occasionally seemed to miss was a certain pair of shoes. This has worked well this last year and I will continue to have a separate shoes from my wardrobe. My “shoe capsule” includes a pair of boots, heeled boots, sneakers, sandals, slip-ons, heels and athletic/running shoes.

I also no longer try to hit a specific number, just build a wardrobe I think would work well. It usually ends up being around 30-35 pieces, often on the higher end in fall/winter and lower in spring/summer.

pants and t-shirt from capsule wardrobe

Hope you have a beautiful summer! 🌴☀

 

*item was gifted from the brand

Cut, Colour, Carat… Clear Conscience?

Giving or receiving jewellery is often part of important celebrations and significant milestones like weddings, engagements, birthdays, or anniversaries. Besides being beautiful these pieces can express love, commitment, and many other meaningful things.

Unfortunately though, the reality of jewellery production is anything but joyful – full of corruption, human rights abuses, and environmental destruction. No one would say they want a special occasion like an engagement to contribute to such horrible things… so does this mean giving up your dream ring? 💍 Don’t worry! There are ways you can still have those special pieces without supporting the harmful practices.

But first, what are the problems?

Maybe you’ve heard of “blood diamonds” or “dirty gold“, these names represent major issues in jewellery production and supply chains.

The mining of diamonds and precious metals can involve child labour, forced labour, and abusive conditions. Groups fighting for control of mines, theft, and workers/communities trying to stand up for their rights has resulted in incredibly violent conflicts and torture over diamonds and land. It’s a lucrative and corrupt industry with little protection or concern for the safety and welfare of those involved.

Mining also has a terrible impact on the environment, from destroying the Amazon rainforest to polluting water systems with toxic chemicals. On average mines need to process about 1 tonne of rock for every 1 gram of gold (a wedding ring can use anywhere from 2-12 grams) and diamonds are much higher – requiring about 50 tonnes of rock per 1g and only about 35% is actually gem quality. Pit mines can be so large they’re even seen from space.

A diamond pit mine in Russia – it looks alien and is hard to imagine the scale.

diamond pit mine
By Vladimir (Мирный) [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]
“Conflict-Free” isn’t a Guarantee

Due to movies like Blood Diamond people are more aware of the ethical issues surrounding diamonds and look for conflict-free alternatives. The Kimberley Process was set up to stop trade in conflict diamonds but it’s not solving the problems, smugglers say it’s easy to get around and hasn’t stopped the black market. Conflict diamonds are “naturalized” to develop a new provenance, Global Witness interviewed diamond traders smuggling diamonds from the Central African Republic who say it’s an “open secret”, they “mix [trafficked diamonds] with other stones, get the right papers, and send them on their way”.

Brilliant Earth, a company who is often promoted as an ethical option and goes so far as saying their diamonds are “beyond conflict-free” was even found to have suspicious diamonds. An investigation into their “Canadian” diamonds found they actually have a shady chain of custody with the diamonds they looked into likely having an unknown origin.

So what can you do?

Buy secondhand! You probably already know that I’m a huge advocate for secondhand shopping. It’s incredibly environmentally friendly because nothing new is made and no new resources have to be used/extracted. You also aren’t supporting companies with unethical and unsustainable practices, or with jewellery, corrupt, damaging, and violent supply chains. Plus it’s a lot more affordable and who doesn’t like to save money?

There are lots of places you can buy secondhand or vintage jewellery either in person or online through sites like Etsy. I especially like looking through the jewellery at antique markets.

Finally, there’s a lot of jewellery just sitting around

How many of us have jewellery that was gifted or passed down which is never worn and just sits hidden somewhere slowly tarnishing? Like with our closets we tend to reach for the same pieces. I know things like jewellery can be difficult to let go of, but if they aren’t being used or appreciated isn’t it better to give these pieces new homes? Plus you can spend the money you make re-selling them on something you’ll actually get a lot of use from! It’s a win for everyone and the earth. 🌎

Alternatively you can also have old pieces remade or reworked into something you’ll actually wear. I think a lovely way to do this for wedding rings is use old gold jewellery from both sides of the family to have melted down and made into new rings. 💚

There are a lot of different ways you can still have those beautiful and special pieces but also with the comfort of knowing you aren’t supporting the dark and destructive industry practices.

UPDATE: this post has been updated to remove the previous brand partnership since Brilliant Earth had apparently contacted the brand and was upset about my comment about them.

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