Eco-Friendly Style: What to Look for When Shopping Sustainably

This year, as I continue on my own sustainability journey, I'm focusing on improving in a few areas. Working hand-in-hand with my goal of living with more intention, I want to declutter as much as possible, especially in my closet. And when I need to replace staple items, I want to choose eco-friendly alternatives.

Oh, wait...that's not what I mean! Although it IS a dress made of recycled materials, I shan't be stepping out in newspaper clothing. (And, #TBT to Halloween 2010, when I was Tinkerbell's treehugging sister.)

Shopping secondhand helps keeps clothing out of landfills.

This year, I'm working to shop differently and sustainably. With all the ways I've gone greener over the years, I still shopped pretty conventionally. I'd impulse buy a pair of skinny black jeans at Target. I'd stock up on tops from Old Navy. I'd buy shoes from DSW.

But I've learned a lot more over the past year about sustainable style, and all that it encompasses. The qualities I will look for in the purchase of any new clothing, shoes, jewelry or bags are:

  • Made of organic material
  • Made of recycled material
  • Made of sustainable material
  • Fair-trade produced
  • Vintage
  • Secondhand
  • Vegan leather

Here's the thing. Especially if you're frugal or thrifty, it can be an expensive adjustment to switch to organic, sustainable or fair-trade apparel. It is a lot more expensive, yes. But, think about the trade off. Fast fashion is not meant to last. Choosing eco-friendly alternatives, and supporting the brands producing them, means you can invest in better quality items made of better materials - or made of recycled materials, helping divert items from landfills. Your clothing will last a lot longer, simply because it's actually made to!

If you're wondering how clothing can be made of recycled material, I will tell you about a cotton shirt, my favorite pair of yoga pants, and two swimsuits in my closet: made of recycled PET (aka, your soft drink bottles) and recycled nylon (aka, discarded fishing nets). All of them are extremely well-made, and you don't realize that it's not conventional fibers (except of course, if you'd ask me about them, because of course I'll talk about it.)

This top with my 2017 motto, dwell on positive thoughts, is made of organic cotton and is from a Kailua local business. The yoga pants are made of recycled PET and are from Niyama Sol, which I got from Yoga Garden here in Lafayette. (And yes, I wore these on my wedding day as I was getting ready!)

Now, I'm not a huge fashionista, and since this is all about my journey toward sustainable fashion, this is where I say I'm not an expert. But after discovering the blog Sustainably Chic last year, I've become friends with blogger Natalie, who does an amazing job at bringing eco-minded brands to her readers. I've learned about so many new and great brands through her posts and collaborations. In fact, I asked her for recommendations on eco-friendly shoes for my wedding, and she pointed me toward Beyond Skin - the brand I ultimately chose and still love!

I asked Natalie to share a little on her passion for sustainable style, and why it's so important for us, others, and the environment. Do yourself a favor and follow her blog, Facebook and Instagram.

"Why choose the sustainable option when shopping? Well, pretty simply put, our planet depends on it. For most of us ladies, I think fashion is something we easily feel connected to. It's a way to express ourselves, and the choices we make when buying our clothing can add a lot of value into our lives. For me, I love the art of design and supporting the makers. The fashion industry employs millions of people all over the world, from the fibers grown to the finished product. I believe, as a consumer, you have the responsibility to make sure everyone involved in the making of your tee has been treated fairly - even the Earth! There is power in every purchase, and with this power you must have patience. Patience to do research, patience to wait for the right product and patience to keep the conversation alive for those who are new to the concept of sustainability. Always keep in mind, this concept covers so much more than the environment and what is most sustainable for one may not be the case for the other. {like I said - patience and research!}
If you are transitioning into a more conscious lifestyle, fashion is an easy start. Get to know what you have & appreciate your wardrobe. Don't shop at the mall or any shop that can't explain their choice of material or provide worker details. Give up Fast Fashion! We don't need trends or to feel as if our clothes are irrelevant. Conscious lifestyles are more personal, and your individual style will always be special. Follow bloggers or trade publications who only work with sustainably minded companies. You'll be surprised how many options you have!! No excuses, ladies ;)

This new lifestyle of yours may become overwhelming. It will engulf your entire life. From the sheets to your bed to how your travel. Don't beat yourself up, and start with the easier tasks like food and clothing {trust me, it isn't that hard!}. Don't forget to treat yourself every once in a while & remember, we won't clean the fashion industry up unless we support the brands who are working hard to make a difference."

So as I declutter, I'm keeping a paperless list on Google Keep of the items that I will need to replace, like new flats, a new belt, and a few new staple pieces. Instead of running to the store to impulsively purchase something, I'll take the time to research different companies (most of the time, means checking Sustainably Chic) and pick - which will also help curb impulse shopping. It can be harder when many of these companies are based online, but it's fun to see just what's out there. One of the first things on my sustainable list is a new everyday laptop bag.

This Prana sweater actually was an impulse buy earlier this month (after I decided to commit to a sustainable closet), but it was from a locally owned business, and it's made of organic cotton and is fair-trade certified. Score, score and score! Oh, and it's super comfortable too.
Another factor that is not on my shopping values list, but that is also a good option, is renting items you need. I use Rent the Runway very rarely (because I am definitely not glamorous enough to always need dresses), but it comes in so handy, especially for formal events. You get the joy of wearing a "new" dress to a wedding or event without having to buy a dress that's going to sit in your closet for the next few years.

I'll be attending my first Mardi Gras ball in a few weeks, and you well know I'm renting a formal gown. Only because it doesn't fit the theme to wear my wedding dress again... which I wouldn't mind an excuse to do!

Plus, recently, the company has switched from shipping their dresses in a box, with a bag included for return, and they now ship their dresses in a reusable garment bag. To return, you simply swap out the delivery label for a return label.

This green shirt from Tasc is made of bamboo rayon, and bamboo is highly regarded for being a renewable materials because it grows so quickly. There's still some debate over how green the production process is to turn bamboo into a fiber, but in terms of renewability, bamboo is a better option.

Plus, there's a bonus appearance from my vegan cork leather Mieroglyphs bracelet!

My all-time favorite maxi dress was purchased secondhand at my local Plato's Closet, and is my go-to "let's pretend to look like I put in effort today."

Although not real, this vintage pearl necklace from my great aunt elevates just about any outfit I could wear. The original clasp had worn out, so for $3, I replaced it with a new clasp, good as new.

I found this dress at local consignment shop Clothing Loft the day of a family member's engagement party. Pretty amazing to find a cute dress, that fits you, and on the sale rack, the day of your event!

My Fair Indigo organic cotton staple tank was a conscious choice instead of finding a cream sleeveless top from a conventional fashion brand. This quickly became one of my favorite tops.

Back to my favorite ThredUp purchase, a gold dress for wedding events (which I had tailored). The one thing about shopping secondhand online is that it can be difficult to guess if the sizing will be right. This dress was a little baggy when it came in, but since I was already having my wedding dress fitted, I brought the gold one with me and had the seamstress take it in, and now it feels like a million bucks. (It was 10 bucks, btw.)

And look at my cute bridesmaid and yoga buddy, Hailey! We didn't match our wines to our dresses on purpose, we promise.

So, here's a brief cheat sheet of brands by each value on my shopping list, a combination of ones I have shopped from and ones I follow (aka, drool over) on social media:

Organic Materials

Sustainable Materials/Production

Fair Trade

Recycled Materials

Vegan Materials



I think, toward the end of this year, I'll have to do a recap of how well I did at paring down my closet and shopping sustainably!

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