Second-hand Sustainability

Recently there has been a movement or an understanding that if you buy something second-hand, that it is inherently sustainable or ethical. It’s actually a lot more complicated than that. I am here to shed a little more light onto this complex topic.
sustainablesecondhand_3

I think one of the most crucial things I would love everyone to understand is that we need to limit the amount of clothing and accessories that we purchase. Just because there is a sale or an opportunity to go and buy things, does not mean that we need to be buying things. We need to decrease the number of things we buy and stop chasing after trendy items. Instead, we need to invest in high-quality timeless items that will remain stylish and intact for decades to come. When it comes to shopping, it needs to be done in moderation and it needs to be well thought out. We need to stop our over-consumptive lifestyles and adhere to a more responsible and environmentally-friendly approach.

Last year I decided to make a pact with myself to never purchase another item of clothing that was composed from synthetic fibres. Included in this pact were these rules: think about the item before I choose to buy it – this includes thinking about if it goes with a lot of other things I already own, if it truly fits well, and if I would actually wear it a lot. This resulted in me being able to cut down on unnecessary purchases, and to build a wardrobe consisting mostly of natural fibres and high-quality garments. Now, in no way am I claiming to be perfect either. I still have garments that are composed from synthetic materials which I had purchased years ago – I am slowly replacing them with more sustainable options, which will be discussed later on in this post.

There is no doubt that buying items second-hand or thrifting is more sustainable than buying new. Thrifting or buying something second-hand is a better option because additional resources are not being used to produce the item, as it has already been created. Giving an item a second life is important. It is also important to know that you can shop at thrift or consignment stores, however shopping at local vintage shops or participating in local clothing swaps is also incredibly important.

However, let’s examine the meaning behind sustainability. Sustainability is the process in which the exploitation of resources, among many other things, is in harmony with and enhances the current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations. Sustainability operates on the precept that we need to meet present demands without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The only way in which sustainability can occur, is through healthy ecosystems and environments. Healthy ecosystems and environments can only endure, develop or recover with reduced negative human impact.

Let’s break this down: if a thrifted item is truly sustainable, it must be made of natural materials, it must be high-quality and it must be able to be machine washed/hand washed.


Natural Materials
Whenever clothing that is made from man-made materials or synthetic materials is washed, they release plastic microfibres into the waterways. These synthetic materials include polyester, nylon, elastane, lycra, polyamide, viscose, spandex and acrylic, to name a few. These plastic microfibres pass through filters and sewage treatment plants, and pollute rivers, lakes and oceans. These synthetic or plastic fibres will never decompose.

Now, plastic pollution is not just an aesthetic issue; plastic has the ability to negatively change ecosystems. Also, over 60% of plastic pollution is from plastic microfibres from clothing, and microfibres are responsible for over 85% of shoreline pollution. Plastic microfibres, alongside other plastic waste, is composed of chemicals that significantly increase concentrations of endocrine disrupting chemicals in the environment (I discussed a little about endocrine disrupting chemicals here). Plastics also have the ability to attract and absorb harmful chemicals, bacteria and persistent pollutants, and when plastic pollution is smaller, the surface area increases and allows it to absorb even more chemicals and bacteria – making plastic microfibres an incredibly devastating pollutant.

Ingestion of microfibre plastic by humans and animals is now virtually unavoidable. What has to be understood about plastic microfibres is because of their size, they are able to enter into the food chain in very early stages and in every stage thereafter. Zooplankton are ingesting plastic microfibres as they mistake them for food, so plastics are continuing to maintain their presence throughout the entire food chain. Sea creatures do not even have to eat chunks of plastic to be affected, as they are continually processing ocean water containing toxic leachates through their gills, stomachs and other membranes. Higher trophic level organisms are exposed to highly enriched concentrations of contaminants due to bioaccumulation. You might be thinking “well I don’t consume sea food, so I don’t have to worry about this”, and this is problematic thinking for multiple reasons. First, you need to consume water to live. Most water that we drink is contaminated with plastic microfibres that are invisible to the naked eye – and no, drinking bottled water is not any safer. Also, more than 3.5 billion other people depend on the ocean for their primary source of food, therefore consuming toxic waste through the consumption of sea creatures. If you aren’t swayed or dismayed enough by the harmful effect on humans, plastic pollution annually kills more than 100,000 marine mammals plus millions of birds and fish.
sustainablesecondhand_1

It is time we take responsibility for our actions and accept that man-made materials are devastating and harmful. Plastic contamination does not only harm ecosystems and animals, but it also directly harms those who are responsible for it, create it and consume the products made from it.

Another thing about man-made materials or synthetic materials is that they were created through an industrial manufacturing process which uses fossil fuels (a non-renewable resource). I have been very troubled whenever I see a product that is made from recycled plastic, or manmade materials, and is labeled as a sustainable product… this is what is referred to as “greenwashing” a product. Clothing made from recycled plastic releases even more plastic microfibres than non-recycled materials. As you read above, there is absolutely nothing sustainable about man-made fibres or materials, especially when they have to be washed. Therefore, in reflecting upon the definition of sustainability, garments composed of synthetic fibres do not even come close to passing as a sustainable purchase.

So, what are safe materials that are made from natural sources and will not release plastic microfibres? Here are a few of them. I must add that each material in this list is more sustainable than synthetics, but there is no material that is completely sustainable, either in the way it is grown or raised or in the way it is produced into a fibre. Choosing natural materials is a decision that will have less negative impacts on ourselves and on the environment both when it is being worn and when it will eventually have to be disposed of (after having being carefully cared for and donated of course). So, here are some natural plant and animal derived fibres – please note that many of the animal derived fibres listed here can be attained, either by brushing or shaving, with no harm to the animal. The leather options are sustainable if the leather is a byproduct of the food industry and is dyed using vegetable dyes instead of the traditional toxic dye process.
Plant Derived


Better Quality
One of the most important things to understand when thrifting or buying something second-hand is that if it is not high-quality, it is not worth it. Also, if you cannot repair it, restore it, or reimagine it, it probably isn’t worth it either. Focusing on the quality of the item is the most important aspect when shopping. This leads me to fast fashion brands or cheap big label brands. Most clothing produced as a by-product of fast fashion is cheap – both in material and make. Therefore if you purchase a fast fashion brand second hand, it will probably not last as long as a better quality garment would. This will probably lead to the garment having a shorter lifespan, requiring you to replace it relatively soon after purchasing. Therefore this second-hand purchase may end up in the trash quicker and result in even more consumption – which is quite unsustainable.

Also, some big label brands produce poor-quality garments and then slap their logo on it, and in the end you’re basically just paying to wear the logo. Always pay attention to the material the garment is made out of and the quality of the item before purchasing. Don’t let brand names sway you.
sustainablesecondhand_2

Also, another troublesome factor about buying fast fashion brands or unsustainable big label brands second-hand is if someone likes what you are wearing and sees or asks for the brand name, it no longer matters that you purchased it second hand, as you are basically advertising for the brand and giving it positive exposure. This usually leads to the person who asked, believing that you support that brand, going to the store themselves and purchasing that unsustainable brand, brand new. I think the most important thing here is to take a moment while thrifting, pull out your phone and quickly search “is this brand sustainable” and give yourself the time to find out if your second-hand clothing is sustainable & guilt-free. Just because something is being purchased second-hand, does not magically erase or revert the unsustainable or unethical practices used to make it.

Another critical factor to consider is that many of the most unsustainable and unethical practices of fast fashion brands is that they use slave labour to manufacture the items. A way around this tricky situation is to avoid fast fashion brands as they will probably not last, the quality will be poor and it will encourage the purchasing of new fast fashion garments. Also, very importantly, avoiding the purchase of these items will decrease the demand for them which will certainly decrease the need for the slave labour that is required to manufacture these items for the cheap price they are retailed for.


Machine washable / hand washable Garments
First of all, dry cleaning is expensive. You spend money on the actual garment itself, then you have to pay to have it cleaned as well. Second, dry cleaning involves chemicals which are dangerous to our health and the health of the environment. The chemicals used in dry cleaning have even been classified as carcinogenic, and severely toxic to fish, marine life and plants. Some cities may have “green” dry cleaners, but it might be best to avoid purchasing items that need to be dry cleaned, if possible.
sustainablesecondhand_4

This being said, it is actually quite possible to hand wash some garments that have “dry clean only” on their label, just ensure that you do your research on the proper technique before thrifting so you can save yourself money and the environment in the long run. Usually only wool, silk, cotton and linen can be washed at home and garments composed of suede, leather, or fur should be taken to a dry cleaner. Washing at home usually includes placing your garment into a laundry bag (use a cotton pillow case if you do not have one), and washing with a mild natural detergent and cold water.


Proper Washing Techniques
I am sure that even if you stop purchasing all clothing that is made from synthetic fibres right now, you will still have some items in your closet made from synthetics. Until you can afford to replace those items with more high-quality & sustainable items, here are some tips and tricks about proper washing techniques.

It is actually unnecessary to wash some of your clothing after only one wear. Items like jeans, cardigans, sweaters, and more, can be worn 2-5 times before being washed. When it is finally time to wash items composed of synthetic fibres, fill up your washing machine to ensure there is less friction between clothing. Make sure to only wash them for a short duration, on a low rev cycle, on a cold water setting. Another factor that helps to cut down on unwanted friction is to make the switch to liquid laundry soap – my favourite is being able to bring a reusable container to bulk stores and fill up with liquid laundry soap (to cut that plastic pollution even more)! Also, always throw dryer lint into the trash and never down the drain. There are even new products emerging to help control the amount of microfibres being lost into the waterways like GuppyFriend! I am going to purchase one and let you all know what I think, either in an upcoming blog or Instagram post. Of course, the takeaway should always be to avoid cheaply-made fast fashion clothes altogether and opt for natural fibres, as plastic fibres will never biodegrade, breakdown, or go away.
sustainablesecondhand

So the next time you are purchasing clothing, keep in mind that a single purchase can have a worldwide impact, and it is up to you if it is a negative or positive impact. We all need to change in order to sustain the only world we have to live in. Consumers have the greatest impact and whether we choose to spend our money on sustainable second-hand goodies, or on new brands that are working hard to be as sustainable and ethical as possible, we will be able to get the message across that we are over the age of plastic pollution and that action is needed now!

Tiara

Honey Honey

oct82018_1
These photos have such warm tones, however the weather was was not warm in the slightest (typical Saskatchewan). I really love this outfit, one of my favourite things about this outfit is how the items are all composed from natural materials (except the tights, which I have been gently washing and reusing for over 4 years now). It is one thing to shop secondhand, but it is only sustainable if the clothing you are thrifting is high-quality and composed of natural materials. This is because man-made materials create plastic microfibres when washed – which is one of the most devastating pollutants in our waterways today. It is time to take responsibility for our actions and to start making our purchases more sustainable.
oct82018_4
oct82018_2
oct82018_5
oct82018_8
oct82018_3
oct82018_6
oct82018_7


Turtleneck: French Connection (thrifted from Stasia Boutique ) / Blazer: Ann Taylor (thrifted) / Skirt: The Leather Ranch (thrifted) / Shoes: Last Shoes / Purse: 33rd Street Market / Sunglasses: vintage Ralph Lauren (thrifted) / Belt: vintage / Necklace: Hazlewood Vintage /


Tiara

DIY Compostable Face-mask

compostablefmRFB1
What is in this little jar? This is the newest sustainable practice I have added to my beauty regime. I have started to make 100% compostable face masks. The idea came to me when I was cleaning out the fridge and I had some blueberries that had gone bad and some raw coconut that I did not get around to eating soon enough. These items were headed for the compost, however I figured before I put them into the compost, I would get some use out of them (please avoid or cut off any mould before hand)! There are a plethora of different fruits & veggies that are incredible for use in a face mask, so your options are not limited. I added blueberries, raw coconut and honey into the blender and I got a nutrient-rich face mask that will not pollute the water, does not contain toxins or plastic & the only packaging would have included the packaging the food came in (if any at all).  If you have any left over, put it in a jar and store it in the fridge. When it is cold from being in the fridge, it is the most refreshing to use. You can use it each night until it is all gone, just give it a stir and pat onto your face.
compostablefmRFB2
Here I am without any foundation on, only eye makeup. Every few days after I wash my face, I examine it to see if there is any areas that need special attention. Usually I struggle with dry patches or redness. There are so many products on the market right now for skincare that it is overwhelming, however the toxic ingredients used in the majority of these products is even more staggering. Switching to an all-natural skincare regime has given me the best skin I’ve ever had in my life.
compostfmRFB3
Now, I may look crazy however what is even more crazy is that most face masks say right on them not to apply them on your lips or around the mouth. This is due to how unsafe or toxic the ingredients are to ingest, yet people put it on their skin – which is being absorbed into the body! With this face mask, you don’t have to ignore your lips as all the ingredients are, strictly put, just pure food. Make sure you put on some older clothes for this face mask application, as depending on what & how much you blended, the consistency might get messy. compostfmRFB4
I left my face mask on for about 15 minutes, if you have more time you can leave it on for 30 minutes for maximum benefits. When I was done, I wiped it off into a jar with my fingers & ensured that none went down the sink.
compostablefmRFB5
This is my face after rinsing with water! Look at how moisturized and even my skin tone is! My skin felt amazing. Again, I am only wearing eye makeup. I believe that the compostable skin mask has an indefinite amount of possible mixtures you can create based on what fruit or veggie has spoiled in your fridge. Now, the whole point is to use food that has gone bad and please try hard to eat the food before it goes bad – however we aren’t perfect and sometimes don’t get around to eating something before it spoils. This is the food that we can turn into a useable product before the compost! I would recommend always adding locally-made honey into your face mask as honey does wonders for your skin!
compostablefmRFB6
Here is the end result. Food that would have just gone straight into the compost was utilized and then turned into compost.
compostablefmRFB7
Composting is so important because food that gets thrown away creates methane (a very strong greenhouse gas) in landfills as it is not able to break down properly due to the lack of oxygen. If you do not have a compost, there are so many different sizes and forms of composters for any living situation. I highly encourage you to start composting if you do not already!

Tiara

The Chain

eljewelryRFB1
I wish I was able to find these shorts in every colour! I found them at a vintage shop in Hamilton, Ontario when I visited for a Global Water Futures conference. I am able to squeeze my waist into the very last notch in the belt, but look how small it goes – I am convinced these shorts were made for a 10 year old child! I decided to pair some gold jewelry with this outfit from Elizabeth.Lyn Jewelry & keep it simple to modernize the look! The delicate chain and earrings add to this outfit beautifully.
eljewelryRFB6
eljewelryRFB4
eljewelryRFB3
Necklace: Elizabeth.Lyn Jewelry / Earrings: Elizabeth.Lyn Jewelry / Shorts: Compagnie Internationale EXPRESS (thrifted from Vintage Soul Geek) / Bodysuit: American Apparel / Purse: thrifted / Shoes: Call it Spring / Phone case: Pela /
eljewelryRFB2
eljewelryRFB5
eljewelryRFB7

– Tiara

Sustainable on the Inside & Out

It is finally July, which means it’s time for Plastic Free July! Do you want to avoid landfill waste, reduce your eco-footprint, protect the ocean and reduce toxin exposure to the environment and yourself? I sure do! There are many tips for reducing the amount of plastic you use, and I hope that this post helps you as well! I purchase most of my lovely sustainable and safe cosmetics and personal care products from Green Tree Beauty! Most of the items I have pictured here are all made sustainably, packaged in safe alternatives and contain natural ingredients that are not toxic, all found at Green Tree Beauty.
naturalbeautyRFB3
The present consumer lifestyle, fast paced and highly consumptive, seems to have finally caught up with us. Plastic, single-use items and packaging has found its way into every store, every home and now every part of the planet. Plastic is created by using non-renewable products, plasticizers, additives and chemicals. Many of the ingredients in plastic leach out into the product the plastic is containing, which leads to a dangerous toxic effect when we apply the product on to our bodies. Some of the toxins that are within plastic are endocrine disruptors, which negatively impact the health of animals and humans. Animals are prone to eating plastic litter, as it resembles their food. Each year, studies have shown that millions of animals die due to their direct or indirect consumption of plastic. Plastic does not only harm ecosystems and animals, it directly impacts humans as well. If we consume anything that was contained in plastic or apply anything on our skin that was contained in plastic, our risks of toxin absorption increase. Recycling plastic is not a solution to this problem, as most plastics cannot be or won’t be effectively recycled in the first place. The best route for success is to reduce the amount of plastic and unnecessary packaging we purchase and use and discontinue purchasing products that involve plastic. As consumers, we have the biggest impact on the earth. We have the power to change the world for the better, and that is an inspiring thought.

A current statistic is that people, more commonly women, put on an average of 515 synthetic chemicals on to their bodies every single day. These chemicals absorb into our skin, especially if there are additional chemicals in the product that increase the absorption rate. Scientific studies show that these synthetic ingredients found in every-day products can be linked to neurotoxicity, reproductive harm in both men and women and chronic diseases. The reason companies are allowed to create such products with devastating ingredients is because the ingredients are rarely tested or regulated before they are allowed to be sold to the public & the consumer drives the demand. Most of the general public is simply not aware or chooses not to care about this information. I hope that after reading this you are both enlightened and inspired to avoid unnecessary packaging and toxins when it comes to cosmetics and personal care items.
naturalbeautyRFB1
First things First, the Packaging

What are most of your cosmetics and lotions packaged in? A popular answer is always plastic. Hard plastics, soft plastics, there are actually thousands of different plastics and each plastic has its own composition and characteristics. Plastics are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic as they serve to concentrate and transfer even more toxic chemicals, which end up in the marine food web and ultimately in the human diet (Engler 2012). Various household products including pesticides, cleaning agents, personal care products and plastic, are all listed as toxins in the home (Gilbert 2012). In fact, modern living has introduced more than 17,000 chemicals in the home (Gilbert 2012). Some of these items are acutely toxic and will have an immediate negative impact to your health, however constant contact with plastic results in chronic exposure, leading to chronic effects. Chronic exposures can occur through repeated use of a product. The reason plastic is toxic is because many of the chemicals that make up plastic are endocrine disruptors.

The endocrine system is the body’s communication system, using hormones to communicate instructions to the organs or muscles. Hormones are incredibly important as they regulate and influence almost all functions of life. Endocrine disruptors mimic estrogen, cause decreased fertility, cause changes in brain function and behavior and can impair immune systems. They can cause thyroid dysfunction, endometriosis and cancer. They negatively impact hormone levels, sexual characteristics, reproduction and development in humans and animals. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals can interact with the endocrine system at very low levels of exposure (Gilbert 2012). The permanent changes that toxins from plastics are able to do to the body result in adverse health effects and persist continually, as these dioxins bioaccumulate. This means that the dioxins & toxins are able to accumulate in our bodies and be passed down onto the next generation. Over time, the amount of these toxins continually increases if exposure is continued.

The only way to reduce our exposure to these toxins is to choose less-toxic products. Every single day, we are unavoidably exposed to a wide range of synthetic endocrine-disrupting chemicals – why expose ourselves to even more by using plastic-packaged cosmetics or products full of toxic ingredients? Most sustainable companies are aware of how devastating plastic is to both the environment and to animal and human health, so they have safer packaging options. These options usually include stainless steel, glass and paper products. These products are ideal because they can usually be reused, can be more efficiently recycled and ultimately if they are not recycled, they will not leach nearly as many or any toxins at all into the environment. There are also ways to skip packaging altogether. Replace your regular shampoo and conditioner with bar options and store them in a tin. Replace your hand wash, body wash and face wash with specifically formulated bars of soap as well. Most of these options (should) be package free or nearly package free!
naturalbeautyRFB2
Within the Packaging

Ah yes, what you usually buy the item for in the first place, the actual product itself. The lotion, the cream, the eyeshadow, the foundation, the list of options goes on and on. The claims that the product promises to deliver may be enticing, but what are those ingredients actually doing to your skin? If you repeatedly expose your skin to synthetic chemicals, the toxins accumulate in your body and can lead to dermatitis, eczema, irritated skin, allergies, chronic fatigue, hormonal imbalances and/or infertility. I have switched to a mindset of “If I cannot eat it, it should not go on my skin.” My eyes were opened to how many toxins are in personal care products when I got the app Think Dirty. I highly recommend this app, it allows you to scan your products and it breaks down every single ingredient for you in an easy to read format. They rate your product from dirty to clean. My favourite part is that they also have an “our picks” section that they recommend similar products to which you have scanned and that are very safe to use.

We are faced with a very complex problem, however the message is clear. As consumers, we need to stop buying our products if they are packaged in plastic or in other single-use alternatives. As consumers, if we start to demand more sustainable and long-lived products, companies and industries will be forced to start providing what the consumer wants so that the companies remain successful. Also, investing in products with reusable packaging will help to save the consumer money in the long run as these (glass or steel) containers can be washed and reused without any toxic substances leaching out of them. These containers make great storage options for a multitude of things, even your own DIY cosmetics and personal care products that can be made from ingredients found in your kitchen! It is crucial that as a consumer we remain conscious about purchasing plastic items and our purchasing habits can result in a decrease in the amount of plastic and single-use packaging altogether.
naturalbeautyRFB4

– Tiara


REFERENCES

Engler, Richard. 2012. The complex interaction between marine debris and toxic chemicals in the ocean. United States: Environmental Science and Technology.

Gilbert, Steven. 2012. A small dose of toxicology: the health effects of common chemicals. United States: Healthy World Press.

Warm Ways

warmways6RFB
I was waiting for the sun to come up so I had an excuse to wear yellow against yellow – also I have been having such amazing luck while thrifting lately! It is definitely a thrill that will never get old. I cannot wait to work these items into more outfits!
warmwaysRFB1
warmwaysRFB8
warmwaysRFB2
warmwaysRFB6
shirt: Aritzia / skirt: Jones New York (thrifted) / shoes: Converse / purse: Le Jule – Hong Kong (thrifted) / earrings: my mom’s in the 1980s / bracelet: Michelle Ross /
warmwaysRFB9
warmwaysRFB5
warmwaysRFB7
warmwaysRFB3

– Tiara

Don’t Get Left in the Dark

AUKEY_1
I love many things, and reading happens to be one of them. During the school year I am busy reading research papers, class slides and textbooks and in the summer I try to make a dent in my “to read” book stack under my nightstand. The more I read, the more I develop a particular interest towards certain topics. Right now I am reading The Hidden Life of Trees, Silent Spring & Beren and Luthien. Admittedly, I am really bad at making time to read a book, however these current books have me hooked. I usually only find time to read before bed and reading with a light that is soft and that has adjustable brightness is something I never knew how much I would like! This AUKEY lamp is the perfect reading buddy with touch-controlled adjustable brightness and the option of coloured lighting. This lamp is rechargeable, so it can be moved and carried to just about anywhere! It’s minimal design helps this lamp to fit into any space & help you tackle that stack of books in the perfect ambient setting. AUKEY_2
AUKEY_3
AUKEY_4

– light received from AUKEY, all thoughts and opinions are my own –

– Tiara