A commonly asked question I receive is how to dispose of old toxic, chemical-filled cosmetics and personal care products in an environmentally responsible manner. Once you’ve switched over to natural products, the last thing you want to do is create more pollution by washing them down the drain or dumping in the toilet. Here are three responsible options to discard those bottles without trashing Mother Earth:
1. Drop off at your local hazardous waste facility
This is the best and most environmentally responsible way to dispose of toxic products. Most hazardous waste facilities will accept cosmetic and personal care products where they will be discarded properly. In fact, most cities have banned personal care and cosmetic products from being poured down the drain to prevent pollution in local waterways. Yes, that’s right, the conventional personal care items formulated for our bodies have to be disposed of at the same facility as paint thinner.
While some suggest at least recycling the plastic bottles, there’s still the dilemma of what to do with the contents that shouldn’t be rinsed out. And mixing in bottles which still contain product with other recyclables can contaminate the entire contents of the blue bin. Placing items in the trash is not a great option because landfills leach chemicals into nearby soil and waterways.This brings us back to the first, and best, option to treat conventional beauty products as hazardous waste.
Make the most out of your excursion to the town hazardous waste dump (no, just me?) by gathering up other hazardous items most households have lying around like batteries, bulbs, leftover paint from that cat condo DIY, cleaner, medications, electronics, etc. and drop them off, too. Some facilities have schedules for different materials or require appointments so make sure to call or check their website for the posted schedule.
2. Return unused products to the brand
Unlock your inner activist by mailing the product back to the brand or returning to the store and explain why you’re no longer a customer. Post on social media, making sure to mention the brand. This signals to the company that if you’ve stopped buying their toxic sludge, so have other customers, affecting their bottom line. I’ve created a customizable template letter to express your concerns about the harmful chemicals used by the company to include in your package:
To the X Company,
I am writing to inform you that you have lost me as a customer because of the presence of chemicals linked to serious health issues and environmental harm in the products sold by your company. Enclosed is the unused portion of (list product), which I no longer choose to use. As ingredients in this product are classified as hazardous to local waterways under state and federal law, I trust that your company will dispose of the remainder of your toxic product in accordance with local and federal hazardous waste regulations.
If you would like to win me back as a customer, remove these harmful chemicals from your formulas (list ingredients, if you choose). Make a pledge to find safe, non-toxic formulas that are tested for long-term environmental and human safety and sign The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
I hope to see (company name) take the well-being of its customers and the environment seriously by phasing out dangerous chemicals.
3. My thoughts on using up or donating products
If you absolutely cannot get to a hazardous waste facility and the idea of wasting products keeps you awake at night, then this is the last resort. I’ve gone back and forth with this, but ultimately, we have to think about the big picture: Yes, the chemicals are still going to be used and end up going down the drain but the impact of your new toxic-free lifestyle has a positive impact that eclipses the negatives of using the last bit of that ‘Toxic Brand X’ conditioner. You’re happy and thriving with your natural, eco-friendly products and have most likely influenced the purchasing behaviors of your family and others in your life and have now prevented multiple bottles of ‘Toxic Brand X’ from being purchased.
Understanding this, combined with the spirit of using up items that have already consumed precious resources to produce, I’d say that finishing up or donating the last few bottles to those in your community who really need it, is a reasonable option.
A culture has been created where menstruation should be out of sight and out of mind which allows conventional personal care product manufacturers to continue to sell chemical-filled, wasteful feminine care products pretty much under the radar. Consumers’ awareness of the hormone disruptors in our makeup and the carcinogens in our deodorant is increasing, but we rarely hear about chemical exposure from the tampons and pads that come into contact with the most absorbent and sensitive area of our bodies.
And the environmental consequences of all those plastic wrappers and applicators are just as concerning. Because discussing menstruation is still taboo, it doesn’t get the attention it deserves, especially in the context of women’s health issues. The marketing of conventional feminine products has left women assuming that the most convenient- and only- choices they have are tampons or pads. Discover why you should rethink the same ol’ tampons you’ve been buying since middle school.
Chemicals in Tampons and Pads
The chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products are unregulated even though they are linked to cancer and reproductive issues. Some of the same toxins and carcinogens are found in feminine care products. By inserting a tampon, you’re exposed to chemicals like dioxin, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and many women’s health organizations link to reproductive issues and even cancer. Let’s do the math: manufacturers sell tampons and pads, well-aware they are laced with toxins linked to hormonal and reproductive problems, to come into direct contact with reproductive organs multiple times a day, 5-7 days each month, for decades.
Yes. Get angry. Still skeptical? Watch this horrifying video and you’ll think about ditching your typical pads and tampons, like yesterday. You may be asking (or screaming at your screen), “how is this legal?”.
Since the FDA classifies tampons and pads as medical devices, manufacturers
do not have to disclose a list of materials or chemicals in their products. Convenient for them, right?
Conventional tampons and pads have trace amounts of dioxins, bleach, chlorine, pesticides, and chemical cocktails advertised as “fragrance”. There are no rayon trees so it takes a lot of energy and chemicals to turn wood pulp into a synthetic fiber, engineered to be more absorbent than cotton, which manufacturers then market to women as “leak-proof”, and “super-plus absorbency”. And this is where heath risks like TSS come into play. Because rayon is so absorbent, it disturbs the pH level in the vaginal environment and increases the amount of bacteria present which are attacking the foreign object (rayon fibers in your tampon) in the vagina. Even after a tampon has been removed fibers also leave tiny lacerations in the vaginal wall, leaving the area susceptible to infection.
Dioxins, a cancer-causing group of chemicals, are a by-product of the chemical-laden rayon manufacturing process. Manufacturers cite that such a small amount of dioxin won’t cause harm, but multiple studies and the Environmental Proctection Agency showed there is no safe amount of dioxin and causes concern for a slew of reproductive problems since it accumulates in the body over time (read: decades of tampon use) and come into contact with vaginal tissue, some of the most vascular rich (absorbent) tissue in the body. In fact, absorbing chemicals through skin and tissue may be even worse than eating them since there are no enzymes to break them down and flush them out; they will remain and accumulate at a higher rate. Conventional feminine wipes, douches and sprays are just as loaded with chemicals, fragrances, and irritants and should never be used.
Tampons and pads are toxic to the environment
The average woman throws out 250-300 pounds of waste from menstruation-related products throughout her menstrual years. While it is a small percentage of the total waste she’ll create (around 62k pounds plus…yikes), most women will use 11k-16k tampons in their lifetime; multiply that by the 43 million women using tampons and pads and that’s massive amount of waste and chemicals clogging up pipe infrastructure and decreasing the efficiency of water treatment plants, leading to sewage leaks that flows into the ocean. A 2010 study of a beach clean-up found an average of 20-30 pieces of plastic litter from feminine products, per kilometer of beach. And when plastic applicators, just like other unnecessary single-use items, pollute the ocean, marine life ingests it. And if you forgot about trophic levels from 5th grade science, humans consume whatever our prey consumes.
Before tampons and pads were mass-produced starting in the late 1800s, women made their own pads from cloth, wool, papyrus, sea sponge; whatever they had. While taking a trip to the beach to go menstrual sponge foraging sounds like a great Sunday activity to some, there are convenient alternatives that will help you reduce waste, eliminate toxic chemicals from your body and the Earth, and save money.
Sustainable alternatives to tampons and pads
These are cups made from medical-grade silicone or natural gum rubber which are inserted into the vagina where blood is collected. They hold about 1 oz of blood and brands usually offer two sizes; one for women who have given birth and a smaller one for those who haven’t. Since the cups are non-absorbent, they can be left in for up to 12 hours, 5 hours longer than tampons. There are essentially no health risks to using a cup and they can be used for years, some brands claim up to 10. And of course you’ll be waste-free. They run about $30-$40 and even if you decide to replace the cup within 2 or 3 years, it can still save you hundreds of dollars in just two years. Now put those savings towards something that will actually make your vagina happy (nsfw).
I’ve used a menstrual cup for about two years now (I use the Diva Cup) and it has changed my life. I can’t recommended making the switch enough. It’s so much more convenient than tampons since I can leave it in overnight or all day, with no worries. It is very different from a tampon and there is a slight learning curve when it comes to learning to insert it properly, but you’ll get the hang of it and wonder why you hadn’t done it sooner. Promise. Also, watch these dudes give a testimonial in song about women gushing over the joys of their new menstrual toy.
Organic tampons and pads
Purchasing organic means that the cotton used in the pads or tampons are non GMO and were not sprayed with pesticides and you’ll also support more ethical brands supporting women’s health and the environment. However, expect to pay significantly more per box since it is organic. To reduce waste, select those without plastic applicators. You can find great organic products at any health food store. Companies like NatraCare and The Honest Company make great organic tampons.
Products like Lunapads and GladRags make washable, reusable pads, eliminating packaging waste and saving money. As far as convenience, the menstrual cup wins for me but these would be wonderful for lighter menstrual days, or as a back-up for cups or organic tampons.
Use menstruation to connect with your body
Feminine products offering increasingly discreet packaging and promises of zero leakage are marketed to women, contributing to the stigma of menstrual blood being dirty and embarrassing. Instead of using this time to connect with our bodies, we’ve become detached from such a beautiful process. Up until a few years ago, the only time I talked about menstruation was to ask my closest co-worker in a whispered hush to borrow a tampon or to justify to my husband why I needed him to buy me three kinds of ice cream.
Most women have a subtle sense of shame attached to their period. This connects back to how we learned and our parents learned (or didn’t learn) about sexual development. Participation in this culture starts young: pre-teen girls get their period and unless parents discuss it, they have to rely on what they’re taught in school, which is basic and sanitized information not even close to being practical, holistic human development education.
I adore this article by Sofia Sundari, who’s like a modern day spirituality goddess whisperer! She shares how to truly celebrate the power of menstruation and was one of the first women to shift the way I think about my period. I’ve discovered that I have an increased amount of creativity during the first two days. I get really fatigued and where I used to take Midol and grab an extra cup of coffee (god forbid I slow down!) I now listen to my body, imagine my body doing what it’s supposed to do, and express gratitude to have a healthy female body; it’s incredibly empowering. I also pay attention to lunar phases and meditate on which parts of my life need to be nurtured.
The next time you hear a woman refer to menstruation with childish euphemisms like, “the curse” or “my lady time”, I encourage you to lovingly call her out on it. Talk about menstruation in grown-up, medically accurate language where we can re-frame the way in which we think about menstruation and discuss it for what it is; the beautiful and spiritual process signaling strength and women’s empowerment. Things like confidence, healthy body-image, and ultimately, self-empowerment, will follow.
Have you tried menstrual cups? Any other choices I forgot to list? Please, do share in the comments.
Photos courtesy of Women’s Voices for the Earth and crushable.com
As a kid, summer meant never not being in a pool (AZ life, hollaaa) but at the end of a carefree day, I would come home with patches of itchy, dry skin. This summer has been reminiscent of my childhood; traveling, being outside all day, nothing to worry about except which type of ice cream to devour for dessert. But spending so much time in the elements has returned my skin to that scaly fishchild state. One of the first things I did when I got home from vacationing was whip up a batch of this body butter/lotion, et voila, my skin was renewed!
This homemade body butter soothes virtually every skin irritation issue; dry skin disappears, rashes and bites are calmed and it also heals and prevents scarring, which is wonderful for my darker, scar-prone skin. This would also be great for preventing stretch marks and healing burns.It’s thick and luxurious due to the incredible healing properties in these rich ingredients. Not to mention it smells like chocolate frosting (no, it doesn’t taste like frosting..not that I’ve tried it or anything…*looks away*).
If greasy lotion bothers you, just make sure to slather it just before you go to bed to give your skin plenty of time to soak it up.
Healing Body Butter Recipe
To get the most out of any homemade products, make sure to purchase raw ingredients that are responsibly-sourced and organic. I purchase mine from Mountain Rose Herbs, Lassen’s (LA area), or Whole Foods.
1/4 cup Shea butter (improves elasticity, collagen production, intense moisture, anti-inflammatory)
1/4 cup coconut oil (healthy fatty acids, rich in vitamins K, E and iron, anti-bacterial/anti-viral)
1/4 cup cocoa butter (antioxidants, rich in vitamin E, caffeine said to help firming/reduce cellulite)
1/4 cup jojoba or sweet almond oil
10-15 drops of essential oils of your choice (I prefer rose or neroli)
Hand mixer (optional)
Combine the first four ingredients in a sterilized glass bowl and melt using a double boiler. Once melted, let the bowl cool down then place in fridge until the ingredients solidify (about 45 min-1 hr).
Optional, yet highly recommended: use a blender to whip ingredients for about 5-8 minutes, until a frosting-like consistency is achieved.
Mix in essential oils of your choice, if desired. When you choose your oils, keep in mind that there will be a strong chocolatey smell from the cocoa butter, so they should pair well with that. Slather this on after exfoliating/dry brushing and feel like a queen. Store in an airtight glass jar, like a small mason jar. Use within 1 month. Enjoy! You’ll definitely be feeling yourself.
Confession: I ADORED every moment of my wedding but hated every minute of planning. Imagine Daria trying to feign excitement about pastel shoes. That was me. For the last 8 months, since my wedding I’ve unsubscribed from all the bridal email lists, given away old decor, and generally tried to rid my life of reminders of how stressed out I was for pretty much three months leading up to the wedding.
Until last week, when I was browsing a magazine stand and caught a glimpse of a gorgeous wedding gown on the cover of a magazine and for a split second, I really wanted to buy it. Then a sudden rush of sadness came over me when I realized; damn, it’s all over. And since then, I’ve found a new appreciation for the whole process. One of the things I am most proud of is the fact that we were able to make our wedding zero waste. And people get really excited when I tell them about it. So in honor of my first “I miss my wedding” feels, I want to share my experiences and tips for reducing wedding waste and encourage brides to think about the environment along with the all the other important stuff. Why, exactly?
Well, the average wedding creates 600 pounds of waste and emits 62 tons of CO2. Gross. “You shall now live happily ever after, with a quarter ton of trash and the ghosts of 1,000 wilted flowers haunting you” *sad Earth emoji*.
It’s common knowledge that a wedding can cost the same as a downpayment on a house, yet the romance of it all keeps the wedding industrial complex chugging along, year after year. While the financial costs are weighed, what’s usually not discussed at the start of planning the biggest party of one’s life is how awful weddings are to the environment. The purchase of hundreds of flimsy, made in China favors and decor (c’mon, be honest, do you even know where your favors of weddings past are?), a massive carbon footprint from extended families’ cross-country flights, thousands of pesticide-ridden flowers, often flown in, creating more emissions for a few hours of use, and bags on bags on bags of trash.
I’m not saying halt ALL the weddings. They offer a place for two families to meet and come together during a very special time. But I think, and even the non-hippy dippy lot of you might agree, that the level of consumerism that results from planning a conventional wedding has become out of control, distracting from the original reason you wanted to throw a celebration; to bask in the celebration of two people making a beautiful, sacred commitment.
Immediately after we got engaged, I told my husband that if we have a “traditional” wedding, it needs to be done with minimal environmental impact. We also had a shoestring budget which forced us to prioritize where we could splurge. Creating a green wedding means stepping outside of the traditional norms and aesthetics which have been peddled by companies making billions off of stressed out brides feeling the need to keep up with the Jones’ (and the Jones’ wedding board on Pinterest).
Understand that you can do a lot to reduce your impact, but may not be able to do everything, and that’s okay! For instance, our wedding was in L.A. which meant most of our guests had to fly out. So we opted to focus on reducing our waste, instead.
If more couples demand sustainable wedding options, vendors will start to offer eco-friendly options and services, changing an entire industry! As a former stressed-out bride, I know how many things you are expected to juggle and to make it easier, I’ve offered some tips to help you reduce waste which can also reduce costs and give you and yours that guilt-free post-nuptual glow.
Communicate your eco-friendly goals to each of your vendors
This is huge. If you are trying to go zero-waste or just trying to reduce your impact in small ways, tell prospective vendors this as early as possible, even before you book them. It makes it so much easier when everyone is on the same page. Sometimes the vendors will have been hired for a green event in the past and they can give you ideas. I was really lucky to have a venue that was already eco-friendly and vendors that were really supportive of our zero-waste goal.
Create a green plan of action for the day-of
The day-of will be hectic and the last thing you want to happen is have your eco-plans ruined because you weren’t prepared. If your main focus is reducing waste, the biggest challenge will be sorting it properly. Set out three waste bins; label them for trash, recycling, and compost (make sure to buy compostable trash bags). For some guests, it may be the first time they have to separate their waste so you may even want to have a monitor to help guide the guests, if you don’t have wait staff.
Let all wedding/catering staff know about your zero-waste goal. That way, if they are removing guest’s plates and trash, they can sort compostables and recyclables. We also asked our MC to work in an announcement about the green wedding, which helped guest separate their trash and to also spark conversation about waste, etc.
Reduce: pare down that guest list
Reducing the size of your guest list is the first and most impactful way to green your wedding and saves a ton of money. You don’t need to green something if it doesn’t need to be made in the first place: less food, less travel, less invitations, and reduced resources to make the goodies and favors. I recommend it from a waste-reduction, financial, and a pratical standpoint. We had about 50 people at our wedding and it was perfect. We were able to spend time with the most important people in our lives and our families had time to bond with one another because each event was intimate. This is the best way to minimize waste, preventing the per-person trash being needed in the first place.
You know the message: reducing paper means reducing the amount of trees cut down. Even producing recycled paper requires water and energy. This was a point of contention and a learning experience for us. At first, I was insistent upon having e-Invitations. But I discovered that marrying a Southern man means entertaining some customs like sending paper invites. We compromised by designing our own simple paper invitations and requested that guests RSVP electronically using a feature offered on our Appy Couple wedding website.
Another idea is to send seeded paper invitations. How fun is that? If you do go the paper invite route, eliminate outdated and unnecessary extras like inner envelopes and tissue paper.
Consider eco-friendly alternative to flowers
Instead of flowers on each table, we used potted succulents and our local guests were able to take home a plant that grows. The only fresh cut flowers were in my bouquet, minimizing organic waste.
If you decide to use plants, try to plant something region-appropriate for example, air plants and drought-tolerant species in arid climates.
Borrow or reuse decor
Sites like Tradesy and OnceWed are great places to look for used decor and even dresses.
Does it seems like everyone around you is getting married, or you’ve attended what feels like your 376th wedding of the year? Ask recently married couples if they have any items they’d be willing to let you borrow. Most of the time they are happy to get rid of box of wedding stuff and send it to a good home!
Another thing to consider when looking at venues is to factor in how much you’ll have to spend on decor. Our venue was the pricier of locations we looked at but it was already so beautifully decorated so we didn’t need to add much, minimizing costs and potential waste.
Be kind to the Earth and your ‘maids
Do you really need new matching dresses, clutches, earrings, shoes, etc? Trust in the fabulous taste of your best girls by giving them a color palette and style guide and let them choose their own dresses. This also lets them use items they already own, reducing the need to buy new stuff. If they do have to purchase a new dress, encourage them to buy something they’ll actually wear again. They will thank you for this. I had two bridesmaids and loved seeing their personalities expressed through their gorgeous dresses; it made for more interesting photos, too!
Planning a wedding on a shoestring budget in L.A. is tough; like make you want to curl up in a ball an cry woe-is-me tears, tough. One of the most challenging things was trying to feed everyone within our budget. We decided to book a food truck because it was more cost-effective. But then, I thought, there’s no way we could have reusable dining ware, so we decided to supply the food truck with compostable plates and cutlery. We ordered our items from the fun and stylish Susty Party and they looked really nice! Guests were even reusing their plates when returning to get seconds; they were that durable.
Compost at your wedding: you can do it!!!
One of the huge generators of wedding waste is leftover food. Of course, please donate meals before you compost! There are most likely local food banks and shelters that would love to accept your tasty food.
Before you buy compostable items you’ll need to find a place that will take your compost. Your venue’s waste hauler may pick up compost, and if so, problem solved. But like most cities as of now, collecting compost is not the norm so you may have to do some hunting for a set up that is equipped to handle the type of compost your wedding will generate.
A few things to consider:
- Will your menu contain meat and dairy? If yes, then you will most likely have to find a commercial compost facility to accept your waste (like a major waste hauler company). Most small compost setups, like those in schools and in backyards, do not accept meat, cheese, and shellfish items because they turn rancid and attract pests and animals.
- All compostable products are not created equal. Some compost products will indicate that they are made for commercial compost facilities meaning that they will not breakdown fast enough in a small backyard set up. If you are buying compostable items for your wedding, make sure you whether they’ll need to go to a commercial facility.
- Check out non-profit composters in your community. If you’re serving a vegetarian meal, they would probably be happy to take your compost. If not, still ask the staff; they will most likely be able to offer you some guidance and point you in the right direction. I talked to a couple neighborhood compost organizations, and even though they couldn’t take my waste, they were jazzed about our plan and were really eager to help!
For all you Angelenos, here’s a list of my awesome vendors that help us with our green wedding!
Day-of planning: Chapter One
Compostable dinnerware: SustyParty
If you are looking for a green wedding consultant, or just want to discuss ideas, I would love to help! Click the ‘contact me’ section of this site and I’ll get back to you!
Have questions or more suggestions for brides? Leave a comment!
In part one of this post, I provided loads of information about how the majority of the clothes we wear are made; it’s not pretty and not surprisingly, cheap merchandise comes at great expense to people and the environment.
In exchange for reading through that heavy post, I promised I’d bring positive solutions to part II…so here they are!
Cleaning Up Your Closet
In the 1930s, the average American woman owned just nine outfits. Fast forward to today and the average woman purchases around 60 pieces of new clothing and shoes each year. Just between 1999 to 2009, the volume of clothing purchased by Americans grew by 40%. While the amount we buy has increased, recycling rates have not. This excess leads to average of 54 lbs of recyclable clothing and shoes thrown out by each person, each year. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that out of all reusable materials, textiles have one of the lowest recycling rates and the U.S. trashes around 85% of all textiles produced.
Just like detoxing your beauty routine doesn’t mean you have to look like a greasy hippie (unless that’s what you’re going for – #savewater), creating a more sustainable closet doesn’t mean giving up your style. It does mean buying a lot less, but I guarantee that you’ll invest in pieces that you will love and cherish for years. The fabulous designer and eco-fashion pioneer, Vivienne Westwood, says it best:
New clothes are fun. I promise, I know from first hand experience that it’s going to be tough to walk by an Urban Outfitters and not walk in to see what’s on sale. But when we make more informed buying decisions, we shift our behavior as consumers, recognizing the external forces that make us feel like we don’t have enough. There is a way to have a stylish closet, support clothing retailers with good ethics, and have a new outfit for every special occasion in your life. I now stick to what I truly need and do my research before purchasing. I find that I have a lot of basics with a twist that can be dressed up or down. My style has evolved and improved since I’ve been more intentional about what I add to my closet. I pair a classic item with a quirkier, vintage one. Here are some tips that have helped me create a closet that reflects my values and save money:
Host a clothing exchange
If every woman in America swapped rather than shopped for just 30 days, it would save one billion pounds of landfill waste. My friends and I have seasonal clothing exchanges and we are all frequently surprised at the gems we’ve discovered that were hidden away in each other’s closets. There are also large scale clothing exchanges that happen; check out meetup.com for clothing swaps in your area.
Supporting local shops and designers means a more transparent supply chain. If you want to know the origins of the textiles, you can just ask the designers. Look up eco-boutiques in your area or check out the awesome online retailers (see some of my favorites, below). There’s a great artist and design fair, Unique LA, that takes place twice a year and features local and some eco-friendly designers. Check them out here!
Be honest with yourself and only buy items that fit well and that you truly love. Soon after I started to plan each clothing purchase, I realized how many times in the past I would buy something even though I didn’t really like it. I’d rationalize the purchase, saying “well, it’ll fit after I lose 8 lbs”, or “it’s on sale, so I’ll just get it”. And that’s how I ended up with a closet brimming with stuff, but never anything to wear. Now, I pay attention to how I feel; if it isn’t 100% flattering, I will not feel confident in it, and I know I won’t wear it very much.
Let a professional re-imagine your closet; for free
Look at blogs and websites for ideas. I like to dream on Net A Porter for high-end looks that I can recreate with what I have in my closet. Have a crisp white button-down? Find one on your favorite fashion bloggers or brands to see how it’s styled and recreate it with similar items you probably have in your closet.
Make like Cher and digitize your wardrobe
How many times have you bought something only to get home and realize you already own something way too similar that you forgot about? Well there are apps to prevent that from happening ever again. Remember Cher’s automated outfit chooser in Clueless? Well, duh, there are apps for that IRL, guys. Check out these closet organizer apps that make it easier for you to mix and match pieces, creating new outfits with what you already have. Many of the apps let users view each other’s closets and dish styling advice.
One item in, one item out
If I take something home, whether new or used, I have to get rid of something I already own. This has probably been the most helpful commitment to not only recycling my clothing and preventing waste, but also, to decluttering my closet. If I’m not willing to part with anything I already own, then that probably means that I don’t really need whatever it is I’m about to buy.
5 Tips for Thrift and Vintage Shopping
1. NEVER go looking for something too specific
Limit to one requirement; skinny jeans? Okay, you’ll probably find a pair. Grey-washed skinny jeans? You’ll probably leave frustrated. I often browse if I just need a closet perk and stay open to finding unexpected gems.
2. Look for off-season wear
You’ll find the least picked-over sections at markdown prices. Be ready to buy a heavy coat in the middle of July.
3. Do a quick scan of the “featured” items
This includes items on mannequins, in windows, hanging up on the walls, and designer pieces kept behind the counter. This is where you’ll find mid to high-end designer stuff. One of my prized possessions is an A.P.C. black bomber I picked up for $40. You may strike out but try again on another day. That’s the fun of shopping second hand!
4. Be a label snob
Try your best to pass on the “fast fashion” brands. Places like Crossroads and Buffalo will resell Forever21 and other cheap brands for almost as much as they are new (which still, isn’t much). This also sends the message to the resale buyers that you, with your discriminating taste and strong ethics, would rather buy well-made pieces that have longer wear than buy some 21 year-old’s doudy ex-clubbing wear.
5. Look for quality
If someone asked me to describe the qualities of a well-made garment a few years ago, they would’ve received a blank stare. Now that I buy for quality, I examine pieces before purchasing, both new and used. Now that I check, I’m amazed at how many times I’ve seen seams already unraveling on new items, still on the rack. Allow for some gentle wear and tear on good-quality used items. Most of the time it can be hemmed or cleaned, or taken in/out by a tailor. Test the zippers – they should glide without any catching. Look for high-quality linings in dressy items like jackets and pants. Here’s a great guide to help you find clothing that will last.
My favorite consignment and vintage shops in L.A.
I’ve made this list to feature relatively affordable consignment shops. If you’re seeking high-end shops (think vintage Chanel – maybe one day…le sigh), check out this great list!
Playclothes – Well-curated, truly vintage clothing, arranged by decade. Expect to pay $30-$80 per piece.
Crossroads in Silverlake – Great finds from low to high-end brands. Plenty of LA-based designer samples end up here.
Hutch – A tiny, hidden gem vintage clothing and furniture shop; unique items that are reasonably priced
American Way Burbank – Clothing and furniture. Everything here is true thrift store pricing, which means hit or miss, but if you’re willing to search, you could find true vintage items for under $10 bucks.
Melrose Trading Post – A boho lover’s bazaar every Sunday. You’ll find used/vintage clothing, along with upcycled/used furniture, art, music, and some weird stuff you never knew you needed.
American Vintage in Echo Park – My husband geeks out over their vintage menswear. He’s found Redwings and an official military-issued peacoat.
Jet Rag $1 Sundays – I’ve yet to brave this event, but I’ve heard good things about it from others. Be ready to dig through piles and piles of clothing for one or two gems, but at a price you can’t argue.
Need something new?
These are some of my favorite sustainable clothing brands! The following meet some or all of the these criteria: Made in U.S.A or if made internationally, transparent about how clothes are made and textile origins; partnerships with local artisans are fair and sustainable. Eco friendly textiles: uses renewable materials, eco-friendly dyes and treatments or reuse/recycling existing materials into their pieces.
Nisolo Shoes – men’s and women’s shoes
Zady – chic, timeless women’s basics
Gustin Denim – men’s selvedge and raw denim
Alchemy Goods – upcycled bags and totes
Raleigh Denim – men’s selvedge and raw denim
Nudie Jeans – men’s selvedge and recycled denim
Raven & Lily – women’s clothing and accessories with a global vibe
Reformation – on trend women’s apparel
Alternative Apparel – athleisure basics
Della – bags and accessories
Baggu – bags & accessories
Ethica – collection of clothing, shoes and accessories from sustainable brands
Le Souque – accessories and home decor from indie eco designers
Naja – gorgeous lingerie
Veja – ethical athletic shoes for women, men and kids
PACT Apparel– women’s, men’s and kid’s basic undies and intimates
Mayamiko – on-trend, fun apparel
I try my best to purchase new clothing from ethical brands like these, but sometimes it’s just not possible because of fit or cost. For instance, I buy a lot of my basics from Madewell which is owned by J.Crew which isn’t the worst as far as social responsibility, but it could do more. However, their denim and shoes are great quality and fit my body really well; they are timeless and I have pieces that still look great after five years of wear. Just like green beauty, no need to panic and throw out everything. Just try your best to make small changes; believe me, they do matter!
I hope these tips and lists have been helpful. Any other tips I’ve missed? Share! I’m always on the hunt for more shops and ethical brands to support.
“Less than 10% of what we’re wearing… was made in factories where people were paid a living wage and working in safe and legal conditions.” – Elizabeth Cline, author of Overdressed:The Shockingly High Price of Cheap Fashion
In the same way that most people are unaware of what’s in their beauty and personal care products, consumers know very little about where their clothing comes from, and that’s no accident. The glossified global fashion brands do everything in their power to prevent consumers from thinking about the exploitation of resources and people and how consumer dollars directly support these awful practices. This post is titled “quit fast fashion” for a reason – it’s a bit like dropping a toxic habit that, as Western consumers, has been ingrained in us, especially millennials bombarded with messages of consumption EVERY.WHERE.WE.TURN.
There’s a great Norwegian webseries where three very entitled fashion bloggers are sent to live as textile workers in Cambodia. Even though there are some very #1stworldproblem moments, it’s really genuine so at least watch this one episode. It does a great job of revealing how Westerners have the luxury of never thinking about where their possessions come from. And if they are considered, the people who make them are “others”, happy to have an income and a job. Documentaries like this help to dispel that myth.
In my twenties, my closet consisted of a few nice, classic pieces, but mostly cheaply manufactured, trendy crap from fast fashion stores like Forever21, Urban Outfitters, and H&M because I thought it was all I could afford. When I started to look beyond the damage it was doing to my wallet, but also at the undeniable link between the fashion industry and climate change, I made a conscious effort to purchase clothing that is sustainably-manufactured with social equity in mind, and generally buy less of everything. Yes, I now pay more for my clothing, but in the end, I consider my purchases that much more thoroughly.
What made me reconsider my habits?
I now understand that each time I pay less for my clothing, people and environment were exploited. And when I give the company my money, it’s like I have just proclaimed, “yes, I want these practices to continue.”
We’re coming up on the two year anniversary of the horrific collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh. 1,138 people died and another 2,400 were injured. I remember being horrified after reading the news coverage of this completely preventable disaster that happened on the other side of the world, but I also felt strangely close to it: I was partially responsible because of my (over)consumption. And here’s the worst fact which, I believe, was lost in the media’s fixation on the death-toll goriness:
The day before the collapse, the building was classified as dangerous and owners were advised to shut down operations until repairs could be made. Instead, workers were directed/threatened to return to work in the partially-collapsed building.
Mahinur Begum, a survivor of the Rana Plaza disaster, now an activist for garment workers’ rights. She and the rest of the group were arrested.
Fulfilling the orders for Western corporations’ cheap merchandise was considered more important than preventing harm and loss of life. It makes me sick to realize that this is the consumerism and greed-driven climate that I’ve supported, or at least idly stood by. Again, this tragedy was 100% preventable. There were 28 Western brands identified as having production orders placed at the factory. Almost two years later, some companies have yet to pay their share of settlements to the survivors and those injured in the disaster. Adding even more insult to a grim situation is that the funds are owed by some of the world’s richest companies.
The manufacturing process is outsourced to a complex supply chain of sometimes hundreds, even thousands of factories. It’s a murky system where merchandise for just one apparel brand can touch a multitude of factories and is incredibly challenging to enforce regulations. However, this often works in favor to companies because they can claim ignorance about violations of labor and/or environmental regulations. Corporations “manage” a broken system with a few audits here and there and require that factories agree to a labor code of conduct, but it’s obviously not in companies’ best interest to completely overhaul a system based on what is modern-day slave labor. Consumers also assume that because they pay more for a garment, that ensures ethical practices. Wrong. Most luxe brands just have a ridiculously high mark-up and source from the same farmers, textile and cut and sew factories as fast-fashion retailers.
That $20 dress exists because a lot of women were exploited
It’s probably not surprising that 80% of garment workers are women. Apparel manufacturing hubs are located in (surprise, surprise) regions where women lack basic human rights which makes them even more vulnerable. Many women are migrant workers and countries like China, Bangladesh and Thailand do not extend basic labor rights to temporary workers. Women work overtime without pay, are sexually harassed, discriminatory practices against pregnant women take place, and suffer from fertility problems because of exposure to high concentrations of chemicals. Any efforts to unionize are quickly squashed/threatened away by factory supervisors and owners. Essentially, corruption reigns in this industry, worker protections are a joke, and often times, workers who do speak up for better conditions are fired. These are not one-off incidents – these are widely-accepted and well-hidden practices which occur across the world in facilities that have met corporate labor standards. The current state of business’ supply-chain management is very reactionary; putting out fires (sometimes, quite literally), rather than taking measures to prevent harm from happening in the first place.
The apparel industry uses chemicals and your body
Retailers like Mod-Cloth, Forever21 and Zara receive new styles every day. Where there were once two fashion seasons, Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter, there are now ‘micro seasons‘, where brands churn out trends, making consumers feel out-of-style after one week. To churn out styles so quickly, it means more production, which means more industrial factories in places like India, China and Mexico where environmental regulations are lax, at best. The World Bank estimates that 20% of the world’s industrial water pollution comes from textile dyes and treatment. Around 25% of all chemical compounds made are used in the textile industry. These industry hubs are in countries with little-to-no environmental regulations (that are actually enforced) and toxic chemicals used in textile treatment processes can be dumped in waterways and those factories can pump out an often unchecked amount of emissions.
However, because of consumer demand and transparency requirements, things are improving. As a result of a Greenpeace’s campaign exposing that H&M and Zara, among other global apparel brands, were selling clothing with hormone-disrupting chemicals, huge retailers have signed on to an agreement to eliminate toxic chemicals from their manufacturing processes. H&M has pledged to eliminate toxic chemicals from its supply chain by 2020.
Illegal wastewater discharge from denim dye houses and factories in Xintang, China
The Pearl River in China runs indigo due to the chemical-intensive dyes in wastewater discharge. 40% of the jeans sold in the U.S. are manufactured in Xintang, the “Denim Capital of the World”, so you most likely have an article of clothing in your closest that was a part of a supply chain in this region. Many regions worldwide are in severe drought or suffering from water contamination from industrial pollution. Each year, in China alone, 2.5 trillion liters (yes, trillion, with a ‘t’) of wastewater are dumped into rivers. The country is dealing with the grim public health consequences of unregulated dumping; residents along rivers suffer higher rates of cancer and one in five people lack access to clean drinking water. This is water that could be used for things like oh, you know, drinking, bathing, and growing already threatened crops in places like Mexico where 70% of the waterways are polluted.
The realities of resource scarcity, mainly water for water-intensive treatments and growing cotton, are hitting the bottom line of massive retailers in a significant way. Even the brands themselves are confronting these issues because it’s hitting them where it hurts. This is a positive thing; many companies are rethinking the design and production of their garments, encouraging innovative treatment processes like water-less dye processes, and using more renewable materials for their textiles that aren’t as water and chemical intensive.
If your moral compass is even slightly active, please, for the love of your fellow human beings, stop giving Forever21 your money
There is a special place in fashion hell for this store. They commit egregious social justice crimes. The retailer has declined to join industry working groups to stop child labor and it’s one of the few retailers still sourcing cotton sourced from Uzbekistan, a country notorious for “drafting” children to work in cotton fields. The retailer faces multiple sweatshop labor scandals every year and has done nothing to reform labor conditions along its supply chain. After a 2001 lawsuit filed by women forced to work in sweatshop conditions in Los Angeles (Forever21 maintained that it all was perfectly fine. WTF?), it outsourced the rest of its production. Check out this documentary, Made In LA, about the women and the Garment Workers Center’s struggle to hold Forever21 accountable and sponsor a boycott. Ripping off the work of designers is also a part of their business plan. The’ve faced more than 50 copyright lawsuits and pay the settlements rather than apply for licenses. And all of this from a company that wears its Christian roots on its sleeve. I guess the execs missed like 90% of the Bible that talks about treating everyone with dignity and respect.
So, now that I’ve completely ruined your day/closet/joy from retail therapy, you’re probably overwhelmed. And I haven’t even scratched the surface of the atrocities that happen in this industry. Please, check out some of the many links I’ve provided for more information and spread the word. Here’s how you can take action:
Research brands before you shop
The 2010 California Transparency in Supply Chains Act requires multi-million dollar companies to disclose their efforts to stop and prevent trafficking and slave labor in their supply chains. Look for the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) or sustainability programs and judge for yourself. Have they published any reports about the successes and challenges faced after implementing their labor and environmental policies? If it’s just a mission statement and nothing else, I would stay away. And if the company doesn’t even have a sustainability/CSR section, then definitely never shop there. Lack of transparency is a huge red flag and usually indicates lack of company ethics.
Send the message to brands where it hurts: profits and brand reputation
Disappointed with what you’ve found/not found? First step- stop shopping there. Next, tell the brands via social media or through a petition why you’re no longer a customer and what they need to do to earn back your trust.
Clean Clothes Campaign
Make It Last
Sustainable Apparel Coalition
Thanks for hanging in there; I know this was a heavy post, but a necessary one. In part II, (next week, happy stuff, yay) I’ll give you ways to clean up your closet, support local and sustainable brands, and offer my savvy vintage/thrift shopping tips!
A few readers have asked about products and D.I.Y.s that will help with acne situations. I struggle to answer these questions simply because acne is a symptom of a larger internal imbalance. Based on my research and reading more holistic approaches to managing acne and blemishes, this is a two part problem: there’s the stuff you put on the outside that can either soothe or aggravate acne, but the more important part is dealing with the underlying causes which are diet and stress levels because they affect hormones, on which this post will focus. In part II, I’ll provide topical oils and products that can help clear up the skin. It’s a long one, so grab a beverage and settle in.
I have been rather lucky; I’ve never dealt with serious acne, even as a teenager. I did deal with a moderate case of cystic acne about two years ago in my late twenties. My attempt in this post is to pool my research and to share what worked for me, which I learned from holistic approaches.
Most skin care products formulated to eliminate acne can worsen the condition, due to the drying ingredients. The skin is slightly acidic and most mass-produced products mess with the pH balance or completely strip skin of its natural oils, sending the skin into panic mode. While what we put on our skin is very important to combat environmental damage and to retain moisture, topical products are only a fraction of the cause of most acne cases.
Most dermatologists and Western doctors do not treat the skin as an integrated system and will prescribe detrimental drugs like peeling agents, Accutane or, for women, birth control pills to “fix” hormonal issues, while completely ignoring the underlying cause(s). With this method of treatment, blemishes on the facial skin are managed temporarily, but the food allergy or the high-stress lifestyle only continues to fester in the body in other ways. More pollution has been added to the body from these serious, disruptive medications or chemicals that may bring another set of side effects into the picture. Now, we have a toxin masking one symptom, only to push the sickness to cause harm in another part of the body.
Yes, you are what you eat, and it will show up on your skin. Many naturopaths and Ayurvedic practitioners will say that acne begins in the gut. The overproduction of sebum and bacteria is just the effect of acne. Because our skin is a sensory organ, it is constantly processing what comes in and out and is the best way to tell if someone is healthy at first glance. You’ve seen it: the person that has naturally glowing, dewy skin…that’s a reflection of a healthy internal ecosystem. When we ingest toxins or foods which are difficult for our bodies to digest, this shows up on our skin because what happens in our gastrointestinal system directly affects our hormones. The profound relationship between the food we eat and hormone balance is just now being understood. The resulting inflammation, toxicity, etc. is the root of the problem.
I was surprised to discover that acne is very much a U.S. problem because of the prevalence of processed foods in the average American diet. The rest of the world doesn’t consume it in the large amounts that the typical American does. There are hundreds of studies that show relief of participants’ acne conditions when placed on a low-glycemic diet (no grains, sugars, processed foods, etc.). This is because our bodies are more efficient at digesting complex carbs. Many scholars are starting to believe that it has more to do with one’s environment than their genetics. Although, some will tolerate dairy and grains, or even if they have trouble processing, it may show up as another ailment like weight gain or IBS, rather than blemishes.
The other main acne trigger is our emotional well-being.
During the last six months of grad school, I dealt with cystic acne, those pimples that form underneath the skin and stay there for a solid week or so. There’s nothing you can do except wait it out 🙁 It was the pits. This horrible bout of adult acne happened because I was constantly stressed, neglected my body, and ate poorly. After graduation, I got back into a routine of eating and exercise/yoga and I haven’t had a cystic pimple since. However, I did have some serious scars from those suckers. I researched natural ways to fade scars and hyper-pigmentation and found out about rosehip seed oil, which I’ll talk about in part II.
The condition of the skin reflects what’s going on inside our bodies. Any imbalance, or lack of self-care will show up on your face in a few days. I still experience normal hormonal breakouts that coincide with my cycle, but I only get one or two spots around the jawline, and they are manageable and go away within a couple days.
What to Do?
1. Check your hormones:
Identifying any hormone imbalances can clue you and your doctor in on not only why you’re experiencing adult acne, but other issues. If you have insurance, ask your doctor to check for imbalances during routine blood work to identify or rule out any serious issues, like a thyroid problem.
If your tests come back “normal” and you still feel “off”, then definitely listen to your gut and look into seeing an alternative medicine practitioner, like an acupuncturist. Most major cities offer sliding scale practices, so those of us without this coverage can still seek the benefits without going broke. If you’re in L.A., try this wonderful place!
Whatever you decide, I also would recommend the book Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life by Claudia Welch. She describes the symbiotic functions of hormones and writes about how stress, food and synthetic medication and hormones wreak havoc on the hormones of modern women. She also offers solutions rooted in Ayurvedic, Chinese, and Western medicine. My mind was blown after reading this and is must-read for every woman.
2. Exercise your lymphatic system
The lymphatic system does not have a pump, like the cardiovascular, so the system can be sluggish and not working to purge toxins and junk out as efficiently as possible. If you are sedentary, so is your lymphatic system.
– Exercise – take a vigorous Vinyasa flow class
– Drink water – this will help flush out nasties
– Dry brush – the nodes sit just underneath the skin, and the long, exfoliating strokes encourage blood flow to the area.
3. Clue in to your skin
From the lovely athletic line and my former employer (yay!) Lorna Jane blog, the location of the breakout can clue you in on whats going on internally. For example, cystic acne is more hormonal and stress related. While topical solutions may help temporarily, there’s probably an imbalance of some sort happening.
Chin and jaw line: Hormonal, especially when the spots go down the neck.
Forehead: Bowel congestion and constipation.
Between the eyes: Liver
Cheeks: Various causes, including genetic
Back: General toxicity and candida
Whiteheads on the face: Can be digestive
Large cysts on the face (without heads): Indicates a hormonal imbalance
4. Eliminate known acne-causing foods
While some people say that detoxing is a great idea to get rid of acne, I’m not a fan because this is not a sustainable solution. Yes, your acne may subside, but you then have no idea which foods were triggering the blemishes.
Instead, there’s so much literature that supports eating a low-glycemic or dairy-free diet. Grains and dairy can cause inflammation and therefore trigger bacteria, which shows up on your skin.
– Try cutting out grains for a week. If that doesn’t help, try cutting out all dairy.
I’ll post part two next week, filled with blemish and scar-reducing products and DIYs that have worked for me.
Much-needed inspiration for the day.