Most of us are familiar with ways to reduce our individual environmental footprint but how do we help influence sustainable policies?
Figuring out how to navigate through the bureaucracy and effectively reach policymakers can be a daunting task. Fortunately, there are a few ways we as constituents can reach out and make our voices heard.
Most methods of communication are fairly straightforward, but some do require more effort on our part. An important aspect to consider is the effectiveness of each method of communication.
[Please note: This will vary depending on your country and the political system. There is also unfortunately a lack of research in this area, but there are some studies and things we can learn to improve our political impact.]
Many of us are on social media, which makes it an easy mode of communication. Social media isn’t the most effective way to reach policymakers, but it is still a valuable tool we can use to make our voices heard. Spreading awareness of an issue is an important aspect to instigating successful policy change. The more constituents that are invested in an issue, the more pressure there is for elected representatives to perform accordingly.
There is some evidence showing that more elected officials are using social media, such as Twitter, as a means of gauging support for certain issues. A study conducted in 2015 found that policymakers do use Twitter as a means of gathering scientists’ views towards certain policy proposals. While most of us probably aren’t scientists, there is still plenty of potential to use social media effectively to communicate our policy preferences.
Online petitions have been around for many years at this point, but the research on their effectiveness has only recently been closely evaluated. A 2020 study looking at the effectiveness of e-petitions in the British Parliament found that only 23% of survey respondents (MPs which opted into the survey) believed that e-petitions carry any influence passing legislation through Parliament. Many respondents in the survey expressed that direct communication between constituent and MP is their preferred way to hear about constituent concerns.
This isn’t to say that e-petitions aren’t useful. Other respondents in this study said they found e-petitions useful because they helped MPs gauge support for issues. It may be a good idea to follow up any petition you sign with a direct contact with your policymaker – a short email letting them know that you’re a constituent and signed a petition for policy change can go a long way.
Email is another great way to communicate with policymakers about changes to sustainability policies. A study conducted in 2009 looked at how email influences a policymaker’s voting decision. The study showed that direct communication via email between constituent and policymaker had a substantial influence on the policymaker’s voting behavior.
A couple of notes about emailing policymakers;
Keep your message short and concise.
Try to avoid using form-style messages. These can be easy to spot because they generally have vague language and aren’t very personal.
A personal message is more likely to be read than a bulk-style message.
Besides email, phone calls are also a great way to voice your opinion on sustainability policies. A field experiment conducted in 2015 examined the effectiveness of direct communication between constituent and policymaker through phone calls. In their experiment, the authors found an eleven to twelve percent increase in the probability that a lawmaker would support a specific piece of legislation if they were called about the issue. It’s important to note that this study used exclusively phone communication as the method of contact between representative and constituent. Per the study authors, phone calls are perceived as requiring more effort on the part of the constituent than emails, thus making them more effective.
If you do call, you likely won’t be able to directly talk to your elected official. Instead, you’ll be prompted to either leave a message or speak with an aide or intern. Plan what you’re going to say before you call and be sure to keep it short and simple.
Finally, protests are another means of communicating with policymakers. Protests require the biggest time investment, but are definitely catalysts for change. A 2007 study looked at protests focusing on environmental policy reform from the late 1960s through the late 1990s. The study revealed that the protests were effective at instigating policy reform because they brought environmental issues to the forefront of the public’s mind. Lawmakers are more willing to address an issue if a large portion of their constituency are watching.
What to Say
Contacting elected officials and policymakers can be a daunting task, but here are a few things to consider including in your message.
Your name and contact information
The official you’re contacting needs to know you’re a real person.
This is important. A policymaker cares about the opinions of his or her constituents. If you don’t live in a policymaker’s district/province/municipality, your opinion will likely be ignored because you aren’t a direct constituent.
Make sure you clearly state your opinion on the issue. It’s a good idea to include why this is an important enough issue that you’re taking the time to reach out. Cite facts from credible sources.
If there is a piece of legislation currently in progress, express your support/lack of support for that particular piece of legislation. If there isn’t a solution or a tentative solution, suggest one if you have something you think is viable.
It’s also a good idea to keep your message as short and concise as possible, so the reader or listener doesn’t lose interest.
Part of the fun of special events like a wedding or prom is getting dressed up! You get to look beautiful, have fun and take photos… but it’s unfortunately a sad tale for the clothes. Typically a formal dress is purchased, has one (maybe two if you’re lucky) special nights out, and then hangs in a closet for years collecting dust until it’s eventually discarded.
However, one amazing solution is dress rentals!
Here’s 4 reasons why you should rent dresses and outfits for special events, proms, parties, graduations, or weddings (you can even rent wedding dresses!) instead of buying them…
Renting a Dress is More Sustainable
This is a huge one.
It doesn’t sound glamorous, but most formal dresses are essentially a lot of plastic. Clothing and especially synthetic dresses are incredibly unsustainable – there’s not only all the petroleum and other resources they require, but also all the energy and labour to make them (possibly by under-paid and over-worked garment workers). On top of that there’s all the waste both from the manufacturing process as well as when people are done with them.
With rentals however, 1 dress can be shared by many people – saving all the plastic, energy, pollution, and labour of producing 10x (or more) new dresses!
You Can Save Money (sometimes a lot)
Formalwear is expensive! Justly so though – it does take a lot of work to make, but it’s also a pretty penny to pay for something that only gets worn once or twice.
For comparison, the three dresses we rented for this prom dress shoot cost:
Green fit & flare dress – regular price $180, rents for $45
Sequin mermaid gown – regular price $267, rents for $60
Blush pink ballgown – regular price $850, rents for $125
That’s a savings of $135 to $735!
Get a Statement, Designer, or Dream Dress
Because formal dresses can be so expensive there is often pressure to get something that is versatile and can be worn more than once. While it’s of course a good thing to get more wear from a garment, it can also mean skipping over your “dream dress” in favor of something more practical and wearable.
With a rental you can indulge in that extravagant, statement, princess, or showstopping dress without the worry or pressure of “where will I wear this again?“.
If you like designer clothing, it’s also a way to wear a beautiful designer dress for a fraction of the retail price.
No Cleaning or Storage Required
On top of the price of your formal outfit there are usually also dry-cleaning costs, plus the hassle of taking it to the cleaners – with rentals, most companies take care of the cleaning for you! After your event you just return the garment.
Renting also means that you don’t need to find space to store your dress – especially great if you’re wanting a ballgown style which can sometimes take up half a closet just on their own. 😅
How Do You Rent a Dress?
Renting an outfit is pretty simple, you either go in to try them on and reserve for a few days around your event, or order a dress to be shipped for your event. You wear it, have a blast, and after the celebration drop it off or ship it back in a pre-paid shipping box, or garment bag.
This is an understandable concern with rentals and here are some ways to ensure a great fit:
Look for Local
Finding a place you can rent locally means you can try outfits on beforehand to find the perfect fit and style. Many rental services have showrooms and more and more small, local rental businesses seem to be opening up!
We got the green dress pictured from a lovely woman who runs The Dress Library in my hometown, Edmonton. She has a variety of formal to more casual dresses (include some vintage and costume pieces) for different events and styles. Another perk is that local rentals can also be even more affordable!
If you happen to be in Toronto, The Fitzroy also has a local showroom and an unbelievable selection of gowns and dresses.
Renting a dress locally not only means you can make sure everything fits and looks right beforehand but you also don’t have to worry about the shipping.
Go With Great Service
If you’re having a formal dress shipped, being able to ask a lot of questions is incredibly helpful!
The Fitzroy, where we got the pink ballgown from, has a both store in Toronto and ships across Canada. They not only have hundreds of formal dresses to choose from (available in sizes 0-18) but also amazing customer service! If you can’t go in to pick out a dress, you can book a free virtual appointment with one of their stylists; you can see the dresses and they provide suggestions based on your style and body type, and also can check the measurements to help with fit. Plus they are available 24/7 to answer any questions you might have!
After we picked out a dress we liked, they were very helpful about the fit and checked Kelley’s measurements with the dress. Based on their recommendation we actually ended up sizing down and I’m so glad for their feedback as it fit beautifully!
So my biggest tip when ordering a special event dress is: don’t be afraid to ask questions about the dress and fit, and if you’re unsure of what style, they’re happy to help! Get as much info as you need, and definitely go with a company who has good communication and is helpful with answering your questions.
Get More Than One
While most special event rentals rent one item short-term, getting a clothing rental subscription is another option. It gives you multiple items on a monthly basis with some even offering swaps during the month. Many subscription services also carry formal dresses so it could be a great way to pick out a few pieces to see what works best.
For example Beyond the Runway, where we got the sequin gown from, does both a one-time event rental starting at $60, and a monthly subscription starting at $99. Their monthly subscription allows you to rent 4 items and swap items once during the month if you chose.
With a subscription you could take time and try different options to find your perfect outfit as well as try out some other pieces in your wardrobe.
(if you’re interested in trying Beyond the Runway’s subscription, they gave me the promo code BTR621KXN which you can use for 50% you first month 🙂 )
Where else can you rent a dress from? We have a list of 10 dress rental services including places in Canada, the US, and Europe!
Overall though, I’ve had a great experience every time I’ve rented pieces and love that you can wear beautiful garments for a more affordable price, without the extra commitment, and also reduce the environmental impact – it just makes sense, especially for formal dresses which get worn once!
The ongoing debate of which vegan leather alternatives are the most sustainable is, well, ongoing.
We all understand at this point that traditional leather, usually made from cowhide, isn’t necessarily a debate around sustainability but about ethics (although leather is also very unsustainable). We all feel better when our products and foods are cruelty-free. But, when deciding which vegan leather alternative to choose, we have to consider the production process and lifespan of the product before making a buying decision that aligns with our values.
Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a rise in the vegan leather trend where products have been mostly made from polyurethane (PU) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). But, at the end of the day, we need to remember these are still plastics.
Now, before we jump into learning about 5 amazing vegan leather alternatives, let me break down what the heck PU and PVC “vegan” leather products are made of and how they are made.
What is Polyurethane (PU) & Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)?
Polyurethane (PU) is a thermoplastic polymer mostly used in the making of shoes and furniture. For a while we’ve been seeing PU as the standard for vegan leather handbags and accessories because of its foam-like texture, and ability to look and feel like a natural leather.
PU is a plastic product that has been linked to health issues and irritation specifically to the skin and lungs (and unfortunately, PU is everywhere – usually found in your walls, your mattresses, and objects that you can’t avoid in your own home). This is why we’re raising eyebrows around the continued use of PU, especially for products where alternatives are available, as we need to consider how ethical this material is not for just ourselves, but also our beloved mama earth.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a little bit more of a bad boy. Derived from chlorine, carbon, and ethylene (three horrible chemicals that are not at all eco-friendly), PVC is actually one of the most toxic plastics we have within our homes (and can even be found in children’s toys)! However, the plastic is extremely durable and used in a wide array of products so it doesn’t seem to be disappearing anytime soon.
When it comes to using PU and PVC in vegan leather products, we need to weigh the pros and cons.
The pros of PU and PVC:
PU and PVC vegan leather products come in tons of vibrant color options since the polymers used hold color much better than other vegan leather alternatives.
PU and PVC are waterproof, therefore super easy to clean!
PU and PVC use far less resources than what is needed to produce real leather (for the material production, synthetic leather has 1/3 the impact of cow leather according to the 2017 Pulse Report)
However, the cons of PU and PVC include:
Neither PU or PVC are biodegradable or eco-friendly. PU consists of petroleum products, and PVC is made from ethylene gas from natural gas or petroleum (and as a result, these materials can be quite smelly).
You need to take special care of your PU and PVC accessories as they are prone to crack and tear easily (and can be impossible to mend!).
On the aesthetic front, PU and PVC can look quite synthetic. If you’re going to go with a PU or PVC vegan leather product, I would recommend sticking to neutral shades, vibrant colors will be more prone to wear and tear.
No shame or guilt if you already own a PU or PVC vegan leather product – the more you know, the better buying decisions you can make.
The good news is you don’t have to resort to only plastic to practice vegan fashion. That’s why we’re going to introduce you to our favorite 5 vegan leather alternatives that will align with your values of cruelty-free, sustainable, and ethical made fashion.
I love cork. I’ve owned cork shoes, handbags, and coasters (duh Jazzmine, we all have!).
Cork is a renewable, raw material that comes from Quercus Suber, cork oak trees (didn’t know that, did ya?!). It’s found along the Mediterranean, with most production coming from Portugal, and northwest Africa.
The Quercus Suber is an incredible tree as well, as it can thrive in just about any drought and doesn’t put much pressure on the native soil.
Cork is extracted from the middle of the bark of the Quercus Suber tree and continues to grow back and blossom for years to come, reducing any threat to deforestation.
Cork is water resistant, extremely light, and super soft – you could literally make a pillow out of it (if you wanted to)!
Cork can be recycled and upcycled, making it one of the most sustainable and circular materials available to the fashion industry.
The cons of cork leather:
Unfortunately, cork products are often accompanied by a PU lining or backing when used for handbags and accessories. The sucky part is brands aren’t always transparent about this, so you’ll want to ask the hard questions before you buy.
There really aren’t many cons to this super sustainable material, but if you’re looking for an array of colors, you ain’t going to find it with your cork products. If you’re all about neutrals, cork is for you!
This incredibly innovative and relatively new material is made from pineapple leaves. Piñatex was trademarked by Carmen Hijosa under her company Ananas Anam after seeing firsthand the horrifying environmental impacts of the leather industry on the Philippines. She was destined to find an alternative solution. The result: an opportunity to provide year-round employment to pineapple farmers, decrease agricultural waste, and offer the fashion industry a sustainable textile.
The process of creating Piñatex includes extracting fiber from pineapple leaves, sun-drying the fibres, and mixing the remaining fluffy material with a corn-based polylactic acid (PLA).
If you haven’t seen Piñatex fabric or had the chance to feel its incredible textile, I’m sure just by picturing pineapples you can imagine how smooth and leather-like the textile becomes after processing (making it a perfect vegan leather alternative!).
The pros of Piñatex leather:
The base material of Piñatex is pineapple leaves, a by-product of pineapple harvesting. Utilizing Piñatex in vegan leather products helps minimize food waste, and maximize profits for farmers by promoting circularity in agricultural development.
Piñatex takes color really well, making it a super fun textile to play with.
Honestly, it’s a pretty dope fabric and looks fabulous, from handbags to shoes to jackets.
The cons of Piñatex leather:
Unfortunately, to improve durability, Piñatex is coated with a PU resin.
Piñatex is prone to fading over time and can be damaged quite easily (mostly due to its lack of chemical protection), so you’ll want to take good care of your Piñatex products.
It has a very distinct look and texture which some might not like.
Apple pie, apple tarts, apple crisp, and now, apple leather. Apples continually give us sweet goodness, and now it’s bringing us a sustainable, vegan leather alternative.
The innovator behind apple leather is Alberto Vocan, a Milan-based engineer on a mission to reduce food waste and increase the sustainability of textile production.
So, how the heck do you make apple leather?
Remember those terribly addictive, sugary fruit leather rolls you would eat as a lunch time snack in elementary school? Basically like that, instead apple leather for commercial use uses the apple peels and cores (yes, food waste!). After pureeing the apple waste, the mushy pulp is spread onto a sheet and dehydrated until all moisture is removed. After dehydrating the apple puree, you are left with a fine, leathery sheet.
The pros of apple leather:
Versatile and can be made in a variety of colours, looks, and textures.
The base fibre of apple leather is made entirely of food waste.
Apple leather is extremely durable, as in that new apple leather wallet will never look like you actually used it (!).
The cons of apple leather:
You’ll still find PU and PVC used in the binding of most apple leather products.
Just by looking at cacti you can instantly tell that this favorite (and easy to care for) desert friend would make an incredible vegan leather alternative.
Cactus leather is relatively new, brought to market in 2019 by Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez. Currently they are the only producers of cactus leather, grown and processed at their plantation in Mexico under the name Desserto.
Similar to our Piñatex and apple leather processes, cactus leather is processed by taking the mature leaves of the cacti plant, mashing them up, and giving them some good time to dry out under the beautiful Mexican sun. The Desserto team uses natural dyes to transform the color of their cactus leather textiles, making the finished product another eco-friendly and vegan alternative to leather.
The pros of cactus leather:
No fertilizers or chemicals are needed in the agricultural production of cactus, nor in the finishing of the material, making it one of the only certified organic vegan alternatives to leather.
Believe it or not, it’s soft!
Surprisingly it’s pretty easy to dye, therefore you don’t have to love the color green to sport cactus leather fashion.
Most of the reporting on Desserto calls it “partially biodegradable” but because of the proprietary nature there doesn’t seem to be further information about why this is.
To me, there is nothing more magical and intricate than the working of mycelium. The way fungus lives under our soil and continues to thrive and provide nutrients to just about every living orgasm is absolutely mindblowing.
Mycelium can be grown in just about anything, from saw dust to agricultural waste. Not only is it an essential element of our ecosystems, it’s becoming an essential component to address our need for a sustainable textile and vegan leather alternative.
MycoWorks was founded in 2013 by Philip Ross and Sophia Wang, the house that would bring Reishi to market, the world’s first mycelium textile in collaboration with Matt Scullin who is the current CEO.
Mylo is another mycelium leather developed in 2018 by Bolt Threads in the Netherlands.
Mushroom leather is an organic textile made from mushroom spores and fibers. It can be used as a vegan leather alternative, or grown over the shape of another object to create whatever item you’d like (such as a lampshade!).
The pros of mushroom leather:
Some mushroom leather options can be biodegradable and compostable.
Mushroom leather is light-weight, flexible, and versatile for multiple fashion, accessory, and traditionally leather products.
Mushroom leather does not need to be treated, therefore production does not harm our beautiful mama earth in any way.
The cons of mushroom leather:
Mycelium needs a lot of water to grow. Although there is currently no sourced information about the impacts with large scale production, I’m sure we’re soon to find out as the alternative becomes more mainstream across the industry.
There is no further information about additives or finishes with mushroom leather. Mylo for example just states, it’s “certified bio-based”. Others are also experimenting with mushroom leathers, however, with such a new textile we have much to learn.
So, what’s your new go-to vegan leather alternative?
I know my favorite will always be cork, however as a zero waster, my heart is so warmed to know that innovators are taking on food waste-based fibres for textile creation. You can expect very similar processing, pros, and cons from just about any agricultural-driven vegan leather alternative, from mango leather to banana leather.
Share with us below what you currently own, how you’re feeling about these alternatives, and of course, let us know if you have any questions. The fashion industry is in the midst of a very exciting time for exploration and innovation. As we continue to weave together our love for style and our love for humans, animals, and the planet, we will continue to transform the industry into a circular, sustainable space.
No matter where you are, your outfit should make you feel powerful while also remaining comfortable. This has been my biggest struggle during my transition to a capsule wardrobe. I often thought I needed two completely different closets: polished for the office and comfy for the weekends. I quickly learned this just meant I was buying clothes more often while forgetting what I even had in my closet. Instead, I created one capsule wardrobe that fits my style and works for any occasion.
I decided to use the Project 333 challenge to choose my wardrobe for the spring season. I’m expecting to be back in the office five days a week, but this capsule framework can also easily be adapted for work-from-home situations that require more formal wear. Of course, your wardrobe should be carefully curated to fit your needs. This is why I’m going to show you exactly what’s in my closet, but also provide some tips on how to create a capsule wardrobe that will work from office to weekend – and your own personal style!
Establishing your Versatile Essentials
You’ll see below that I’ve decided not to organize this capsule wardrobe by clothing categories such as tops, bottoms, and shoes. Instead, I thought it’d be more useful to show you my items in the order that I picked them for this capsule.
First, I chose what I call my “versatile essentials.” In most cases, these will be items that go with everything in your closet but the most important criteria for these pieces should be that they can be worn in both a work and weekend setting.
I’ve listed my 15 versatile essentials below. You’ll find that many of them are the usual basics – such as a white tee or black booties – but I’ve also thrown in some “fun” pieces that I can wear in various situations.
White scoop-neck tee
Beige wrap sweater
Green paperbag pants
Lightweight gray cardigan
Beige long-sleeve bodysuit
Black skinny jeans
Floral midi skirt
Beige trench coat
Leopard flowy pants
Black leather tote bag
Picking your “Casual” Pieces
When I say “casual” I mean anything that you can’t wear in an office setting. For instance, I work a pretty standard corporate job which means that sneakers and denim are off limits in the workplace. Because of this, I’ve limited these pieces to only 10 out of the 33 items in my capsule. The purpose of this isn’t to make a tiny casual wardrobe within your closet but instead to have a few key casual pieces that can be added to make an outfit feel more casual. My favorite example of this is a classic denim jacket and sneakers, which can quickly transform a work-appropriate dress into a more casual look!
Black slouchy v-neck tee
Gray graphic tee
Green anorak jacket
Brown cross bag
Picking your “Dressy” Pieces
It’s now time to use this same logic when choosing some “dressy” pieces for your capsule. This means items that you wouldn’t typically wear outside of work, but are still good to have when you need to dress up an outfit. The perfect example of this is the classic kitten heel. These shoes are my go-to for the office but definitely aren’t casual wear. Although, I can also pair the heels with some jeans and a cute top if I’m going out for a drink. The same goes for the classic black blazer, which can instantly dress up a pair of pants, skirt, or a dress. Here are my 8 dressy pieces:
Black sleeveless turtleneck
Black leather midi skirt
Black kitten heels
Overall, your comfort should triumph over anything else. If an item is too uncomfortable to wear outside the office (or outside your house!) then it shouldn’t be in your capsule wardrobe. If you have a good set of versatile essentials to build from with a few casual and dressy items, then creating looks that go from workday to weekend will be quick and easy!
Move Over Grass, these Eco-Friendly Lawn Alternatives are the Future
Grass. It might seem like a boring topic, but by the end of reading this I think you might be grabbing your shovel and ready for a lawn makeover.
We’re not only going to get into why grass is terrible for the environment and takes too much time and money to maintain, but also some sustainable, easy, and beautiful lawn alternatives to turf grass!
Why do we even have lawns?
The grass lawn started as a status symbol cultivated by European aristocracy. Only the elite could use their land for something other than growing food, and a large number of servants were needed to cut and keep the lawn manicured, so a trim, grass lawn was a display of considerable wealth. However with the invention of mechanical mowers a lawn could now be achieved without servants and this status symbol became desired by all and a suburban staple.
For many lawns are just “normal” and we haven’t thought to question their existence, and unfortunately people also feel neighborhood peer pressure to maintain a groomed lawn.
Grass isn’t “Green”
Grass is unsustainable for many reasons:
Turf grass doesn’t provide a suitable habitat or food for many insects and creatures, negatively impacting biodiversity.
This seems to be a popular option for people who want a similar look to a grass lawn. It is drought-tolerant and needs little watering, remains green longer than grass, requires no fertilizer, pesticides or mowing (although you can occasionally mow it if you want to keep it short). Micro clover can grow in poor soil and actually improves and naturally fertilizes the soil through nitrogen-fixation.
Clover grows very densely so it crowds out and prevents weeds (hooray for less weeding 🙌) and if you’re a dog owner this is also a good one to look into as it doesn’t get those ugly dead patches from urine!
We had a dry summer and our micro clover still looks amazing with very little watering compared to the dry, brown grass.
Bee Turf is a blend of clovers and low wildflowers developed by West Coast Seeds to reduce maintenance costs and provide a healthy habitat for pollinators. Bee Turf can be trimmed monthly for a shorter, more manicured looking lawn, or can also be grown for a flowered pasture look.
This is what we replaced our back yard with and I love it! It’s lush and green, even during a dry summer and the tiny flowers are a delight.
Unlike turf grass, native plants are perfectly suited to thrive in your yard and incredibly valuable for biodiversity and a healthy ecosystem. They tend to be more drought-resistant, grow deeper roots which prevent erosion, and generally don’t require much maintenance.
Which grasses and plants to choose for your lawn will of course depend on where you live, so start by researching native plants in your area. If you’re in the US, Native Plant Finder should be a helpful tool and starting point, and you can often find local native plant groups or resources specific to your area.
4. Wildflower Meadow
A bright, softly-swaying wildflower meadow seems like the stuff of dreams… but you could have one right in your yard!
There is an incredible movement towards edible landscaping or “foodscaping” and replacing lawns with vegetable gardens. But don’t just think rows of vegetables – while some are practically designed there are also beautifully landscaped edible gardens! (Check out some of these yards)
Ready to get planting? I highly recommend the seeds and mixes from West Coast Seeds, it’s where we’ve gotten all our lawn replacement and wildflower seeds and they have even more lawn alternatives than I’ve mentioned, such as the Easy Care Envirolawn which is another great option!
A few things to consider when deciding which grass alternative is right for you
What type of lawn works best for your home will depend on some factors:
What are you mainly using it for? This should guide any landscaping decisions so you have a functional yard you enjoy!
Who is using it? If pets or children are playing on your lawn, look for more durable lawn alternatives.
Climate and growing conditions. Be sure to select something that will grow well where you live, for example if you live somewhere dry, make sure your lawn choice is drought-tolerant.
City bylaws or HOA rules – sometimes there are rules about how your lawn can look. Make sure to look into these and you might have to keep your lawn at a certain height or go with something that looks “grass like” to abide by the guidelines.
Maintenance requirements. Some lawn alternatives are very low maintenance while others are definitely for gardeners, choose an option that works for your lifestyle.
So with all that, I’d love to know about your lawn! Are you planning on replacing it? And if so, which option seems like a good fit for you?
Looking for the elusive unicorn of totally natural, 100% plastic-free, and biodegradable clothing? I’ve found some options!
Did you know even if the tag says 100% cotton, it shouldn’t be composted as we don’t know if it actually safely biodegrades. However there are some brands who make biodegradability a top priority – using organic fabrics, natural or certified non-toxic dyes, natural trims and components, and even biodegradable elastics, so when your items are worn out they can be tossed in the compost with zero waste and no worries!
Founder Stephanie Devine started the Australian-based brand The Very Good Bra with a mission to create a completely zero waste bra. The entire bra, even the hooks, elastics (made from natural rubber), thread, and labels can be put into a home compost at the end of it’s life! Learn more about their materials here.
Chatting with Stephanie she expressed that creating a compostable bra has certainly had challenges though; sourcing materials can be very hard and often there is only one supplier of certain components like their natural rubber elastic or Cradle to Cradle certified Tencel thread. They also had issues with a supplier leaving out the fact that a synthetic stabilizer was added to their cotton hook & eye closures. However seeing their transparency around the product and learning about this mistake was very refreshing and since then Stephanie has been able to develop a fully composable closure for the new styles!
Sustain in a US based brand, all about sustainable, natural, and skin-healthy garments. They make organic and plant-dyed clothes, accessories, underwear, and baby clothes.
As opposed to conventional dyeing which can be toxic and harmful to people and the environmental, Sustain uses traditional natural dyeing methods and materials. Some of the pieces incorporate Ayurvedic dyeing techniques and they also have an undyed and colour-grown cotton line for those with very sensitive skin or who just love the look and feel of natural cotton!
Even natural dyeing is not totally safe for the environment though, with some processes using heavy metals, however Sustain only uses safe and non-toxic dyes and mordants.
I also really appreciate how transparent, genuine, and dedicated founder Kat is about sustainability. I messaged her to check if all components can be composted and she mentioned that everything is fine to compost except for the labels – even though they use soy ink she is not 100% sure there are no additives so to be safe the labels should just be cut off.
Learn more about Sustain and how they use natural dyes in this post!
US based brand, Harvest & Mill makes tees, tops, and joggers. They offer undyed and unbleached cotton in both the natural creamy white, and also an undyed, colour-grown light brown. Harvest & Mill also has some naturally-dyed options and a black colourway dyed with low impact dyes.
They prioritize local production, using US-grown organic cotton and all the spinning, knitting, and sewing happens within 20 miles of their studio.
Please note: Harvest & Mill also sells socks but these have some stretch nylon blended in and therefore are not compostable.
With a focus on natural products and regenerative agriculture, California Cloth Foundry makes women’s organic clothing in “collaboration with nature”.
Their casual and lounge pieces are naturally dyed and ethically made in the US.
Please note: Some of their pieces do contain 2% spandex and these items are not compostable however they are currently looking for solutions and testing a bio-based alternative to eventually have a fully plastic free clothing collection.
How you and your furry friend(s) can make a difference towards the environment.
We reduce, reuse and recycle, say no to plastic straws and look at the ingredients used in our foods, but how do we do the same for our pets?
There are many ways to include your furry best friend in the eco-conscious movement and make sure you’re both doing your best for the environment.
Here are some ways you can be a sustainable pet parent:
Adopt, don’t shop
If you’re looking into getting a little furball of your own, or adding to your fur family, consider getting them from a rescue organization instead of a breeder and adding to the environmental complications of overpopulation.
Another way to make sure that you lessen the burden of animal overpopulation on the planet is making sure your pets can’t create more little furry ones and put their own lives at risk.
According to the Humane Society: “The average lifespan of spayed and neutered cats and dogs is demonstrably longer than the lifespan of those not.”
They cite studies that found neutered male dogs lived 18% longer and spayed female dogs lived 23% longer. Spayed female cats in the study lived 39% longer and neutered male cats lived 62% longer.
Spaying or neutering your pets gives them better quality of life, reduces risks of illness and they’re less likely to stray.
Try sustainable pet food
Do your research and find brands that use the “leftovers” from animal agriculture that humans won’t eat and would otherwise be wasted that are also sustainably packaged. Make sure you talk to your vet about the nutritional needs of your pet first as you don’t want them eating foods that aren’t good for them either.
Make sure their feeding bowls are BPA-free – if you can use glass or another sustainable material, please do so!
Choose green pet toys
Try to limit the amount of toys you have that have harmful plastics in them. There are many companies who make toys, beds and other pet supplies from sustainable materials or recycled waste.
You can also have a look at thrift stores and yard sales for gently used pet toys or kids toys that can be given to your animal companion. Just make sure to remove any small plastic parts that your dog, cat or other animal might be able to swallow.
Ever heard of Buy Nothing groups? You can find your hyper localized group where you can share, donate or receive things like pet toys for free.
You can also swap unwanted pets toys and accessories in your local community outside of these groups with other people who might have a use for them instead.
Or, you can donate those toys your fur baby no longer plays with to a shelter or thrift store.
[Note: If you’re in the US, Earthhero* is a great place to find sustainable pet toys and products!]
Use non-toxic pest prevention
Grooming your pets regularly, washing their bedding in hot sopay water, and vacuuming regularly should be enough to control fleas in your home, but sometimes chemical products are necessary for when those pests just won’t leave your pooch or your kitten alone.
You could ask your vet about oral flea prevention medication, but this might not be a realistic option for all pet owners.
If you do need to use chemical products, try less toxic products with s-methoprene or pyriproxyfen as ingredients and to avoid products that include synthetic neonicotinoids (like imidacloprid and dinotefuran), which are known to harm pollinators and could be toxic to kids’ developing brains.
Never leave dog waste outside on the ground as it could be carried into waterways and make people and other pets sick. Always use biodegradable poop bags to get rid of animal waste, but if you can, you could try composting it to feed your non edible plants! You could use a regular compost bin or find one specifically made for animal waste.
Never flush cat waste (even with flushable cat litter) as their faeces can also contaminate water and affect marine life with Toxoplasma gondii.
According to the Treehugger website: “Cat poop quickly dehydrates and hardens in litter, so by the time you get around to scooping it, it’s basically petrified and likely to create a clog.” This isn’t good for your plumbing either. Rather throw it in the trash.
What are some ways you make sure your pets are doing their bit for the environment?
Photos from Pexels
*indicates an affiliate link and MGC might make a small commission from any purchases through this link
And fortunately some brands are already working to change the way we view and use textile “waste”. Through things like zero waste fashion production, using offcut, reclaimed, and deadstock materials, upcycling existing garments, and even taking back and recycling their own clothes.
One of these sustainable brands is Tonlé – a company I’ve admired over the years for their holistic mission and waste reduction efforts, and who I was thrilled wanted to partner this year!
(This roundup is kindly sponsored by Tonlé and also contains some affiliate links)
Tonlé mainly utilizes offcuts and some deadstock materials for their styles. Offcuts are the pieces left over after the patterns have been cut out and these are often trashed or burned. However Tonlé has come up with some clever solutions to save this waste from other factories (as well as their own cutting scraps!) – larger pieces are used for garments and smaller pieces might become accents, patch details, or are turned into fabric yarn and handwoven into unique zero waste garments and accessories (like the cardigan pictured above on the right). Their production is completely zero waste and even the snipped threads are recycled into paper!
Finally, to keep things circular, if you have Tonlé pieces that no longer work for you or your wardrobe, or even that are damaged and need some TLC, you can trade them back for store credit! These secondhand pieces are fixed up if needed and sold in their Open Closet.
While there are many added challenges with sourcing reclaimed fabrics, designing to minimize waste, and having a sustainable, maker-focused production process it also means that Tonlé customers get a more unique and mindfully crafted piece (that hopefully will be loved and cherished for years 💚).
Chatting with owner Rachel, it was quickly apparent not only how passionate she is about sustainability within her brand but also waste, inclusivity, fairness, and transparency issues in the industry as a whole.
I’m always inspired and encouraged by brands who aren’t just making a “sustainable product” but are finding solutions, shaking things up, and who see and are working towards a brighter future for the industry – thank you for being leaders!
Upcycling isn’t just recycling – it’s transforming it into something better. With clothing that might involve taking secondhand garments and updating, repairing, or re-designing them, or maybe shredding old clothes to turn into new fabrics.
Vintage/secondhand store with a collection of reworked and upcycled clothes.
Brands Using Deadstock Fabrics
Deadstock is also known as remnant, overstock, or surplus fabric. This might be from other brands who ordered more than they actually needed, or from mills who either made a mistake (like the colour wasn’t exact), an order was cancelled, there was some damage or flaws, or they produced too much.
There is some debate around the sustainability of making deadstock clothing- the main argument being that mills can intentionally produce extra fabric to sell, or companies can over-buy and sell the excess, purposely creating the “waste”. While I do think this is something to be aware of, I also know that there is an insane about of pre-consumer textile waste (check out my visit to Fab Scrap for a tiny peek) and I think it is good to support brands trying to do something with all the extra fabric. Unfortunately there isn’t a way to really verify where a brand’s fabric came from, but I do believe that many sustainable brands are genuine with their waste reduction mission and sourcing true deadstock.
Wondering how to compost in an apartment, indoors, or small space? We’ve got the basics, bins, how, why, and where for you from a compost expert!
One of the best ways to reduce your waste and impact on your local waste system is to compost at home.
Industrial composting comes with environmental costs that we often don’t think about. For example, collection vehicles make trips to pick up waste in a neighbourhood based on volume – if the vehicle is full before completing the route, it must drop off the waste at the facility, drive back to the neighbourhood and do it all over again – the more waste, the more trips, the more fuel used. Industrial compost facilities also use electricity for heat, general building operations and are not perfect – if the facility is full at any given time, that excess organic waste is likely ending up in landfill. Sadly, some regions don’t have any form of industrial composting in their facilities, so all of the organic matter collected will end up in the landfill, where it will never properly biodegrade.
Home composting is a great way to reduce your impact, and get some awesome benefits at the same time.
There are many fears and anxieties for folks who don’t live in a home with access to a yard when it comes to composting – is it possible? Will it stink? What do I do with the finished product? Let’s break down some of the options for composting in an apartment, condo, or building that doesn’t give you access to a yard.
Understanding Composting Basics
The most basic kind of compost is made up of a very simple equation – greens, browns, water and air, or in scientific terms, nitrogen, carbon, H20 and oxygen. You can also call this aerobic composting – air has a role in the breakdown of the greens and browns. (There is also anaerobic composting, but we’ll get to that later.)
Greens are things that can tend to stink when they rot (but not always) and could be considered ‘fresh’ – vegetable scraps, fruit scraps, coffee grounds, cuttings from houseplants, egg shells, tea leaves, flowers, etc.
Browns are things that tend to feel dry and are often derived from trees – paper, tissue paper, cardboard, leaves, twigs, coffee filters, cotton scraps, dryer lint.
The list of what you can put in a compost system is pretty simple – if it’s organic (not made of plastic, synthetics or toxic material), it can go in the compost system with a few vital exceptions:
Animal or human excrement
These four things should always be avoided in your compost system, unless you are a seasoned compost expert, and even then I would strongly advise against including them. The reason? They become really gross, really fast, can invite unwanted critters into your space, are difficult to break down in a home compost system, and have the potential to sustain unsafe bacteria in your finished compost, especially if you want to use the compost in your edible plant containers.
How to Use your Compost
There are many uses for compost, and it makes a wonderful gift to friends and family who have a garden or a yard. You can:
Make compost tea – take a spoonful of finished compost, put it in a coffee filter, tie it up and steep it like a teabag in a jug of water or watering can. Let it sit for 24 hours, then you can dilute the solution and add to houseplants as a fertilizer.
Mix it in potting soil when repotting new houseplants
Add it to soil when seed-starting (hello balcony tomatoes!)
Sprinkle on the top of the soil of your houseplants
Dig it into a friend or family members garden or flower beds to give the soil some love and nutrients
What Compost Bin/System is Right for Me?
There are four general options (with or without worms) for composting in an apartment, condo, or home that doesn’t have yard access.
Balcony Composting with Tumbling & Rolling Composters
Can be used on balconies and small patio spaces
Tumblers be used year round, even in winter conditions
Holds a high volume of organics
No worms or other accessories needed
Easiest system to maintain
Not physically accessible for everyone; requires a pushing or cranking motion from hands and wrists
Price runs around $90 – $150
Takes up more space than other composters, and should be used outside
Difficult to create a DIY version for a balcony or small patio
Claim to be an all-in-one system that composts for you on a short time frame
Some claim to compost meat, dairy and oil without issue
Look nicer than other systems
Very expensive, often run over $300
Few reviews available about long term usage
Can break down easily and may be difficult to repair
Some require ongoing purchases of filters
Require an electronic outlet, continuously use electricity and can be loud
Overall, I do not recommend electronic composters – they sound too good to be true and are a big investment without proof of long term function.
What if none of these systems work for me?
A saying in my community of fellow composters is “if you’ve seen one compost system, you’ve seen one compost system”. Everyone’s needs are different, and depending on your home and who you live with, composting in your own space just might not work, at least in this moment.
Before you fully give up on composting, try connecting with local community gardens, farms, animal sanctuaries, and neighbours or community members who have compost systems. There may be someone near you who would love to accept your food scraps and organic waste!
It’s as easy as collecting your scraps in a bowl or container in the freezer, and bringing them to that place or person when it’s full. There is also a very exciting app called ShareWaste that specifically connects composters and organic waste collectors (aka potentially all of us) with each other.
Whatever you choose to explore in your composting journey, I wish you luck and encourage you to find like minded people in your community or online. There are so many valuable experiences and pieces of knowledge out there just waiting to be discovered by interested folks like you.
Remember, it is okay to fail and try again! Even small steps make a big difference.