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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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

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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.
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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

Beige Aesthetic

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I cannot believe that it is September already and that I start university again in 2 days. I am looking forward to fall & I hope that we are able to get some fall weather this year in Saskatchewan instead of going straight into winter again.
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shirt: Aritzia  / jeans: Cache Creek (thrifted) / jacket: The Hot Like (thrifted) / shoes: Converse / bracelet: Michelle Ross / jewelry: vintage / sunglasses: Vogue / bag: Nordisen  /
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Tiara

DIY Gummies

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I have been diagnosed with IBS, leaky gut & possible candida overgrowth & SIBO for several years now, alongside stage 4 Endometriosis. The healing process has been beyond difficult. I have made very few advances, despite multiple specialist appointments. In fact, it feels like no matter how I approach this situation that I always encounter setbacks instead.

I have found that adhering to a very strict diet has been one of the only things that has helped, even though it is very difficult and time consuming. I used to feel like I was going to puke every single day and my intestines ached so severely that my mobility was negatively impacted. This was occurring even after I eliminated all gluten and dairy from my diet. So, I decided to pay for a Food Sensitivity and Reaction Blood Test that measured the amount of antibodies my body made per individual food (aka which foods were causing more inflammation in my body). The list was very long, I was restricted to a few vegetables, even fewer fruits, coconut & meat.

I have now been following that strict anti-inflammatory diet for almost 3 years. I do feel better, I don’t feel like I have to puke at all anymore, however my intestines are still quite sick. This summer, I have been trying to introduce more items into my diet that will help them heal. Grass fed & pasture raised gelatin is one of the things I have introduced. Gelatin (as long as it is grass fed and pasture raised) is good for your intestinal health as well as your joints, hair & skin.
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I decided to try making my own gummies with gelatin because it is a very easy way to introduce more gelatin into my diet (in a very delicious way). Here is how I make my own gut-healing gummies:


DIY BLUEBERRY & LEMON GUMMIES
AIP/Paleo/Autoimmune diet approved
(discovered on the Primal Palate)

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup fresh organic lemon juice
  • 1 cup fresh organic blueberries
  • 4 tbsp grass fed & pasture raised gelatin

Instructions

  1. add the lemon juice and the blueberries into a sauce pan over medium heat
  2. stir often and cook until the lemon juice is steaming and the blueberries are plump and have turned the juice dark purple
  3. remove from the stovetop and let cool for a few moments
  4. add into blender and blend until smooth
  5. add in 4 tbsp of gelatin into the blender and blend again
  6. pour into a glass and use a food pipette to fill the molds OR pour into a flat glass container and set in the fridge (either 1 large container or multiple small ones)
  7. after about 1-2 hours, remove the gummies from the molds OR cut them out of the glass container and put them into a glass container to store them in the fridge

DIY STRAWBERRY COCONUT GUMMIES
AIP/Paleo/Autoimmune diet approved
my own recipe

Ingredients 

  • 1 can of organic coconut milk (with no fillers)
  • ~1/2 cup organic strawberries (cut in halves)
  • 5 tbsp grass fed & pasture raised gelatin

Instructions

  1. add the coconut milk & strawberries into a sauce pan over medium heat
  2. stir often and cook until the coconut milk is bubbling slightly and the strawberries are soft
  3. remove from the stovetop and let cool for a few moments
  4. add into blender and blend until smooth
  5. add in 5 tbsp of gelatin into the blender and blend again
  6. pour into a glass and use a food pipette to fill the molds OR pour into a flat glass container and set in the fridge (either 1 large container or multiple small ones)
  7. after about 1-2 hours, remove the gummies from the molds OR cut them out of the glass container and put them into a glass container to store them in the fridge

These are then good for about 3-4 days in the fridge (trust me, they do not last that long).
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These gummies make an excellent snack, just ensure they stay cool (keep them on an icepack if you are removing them from the fridge) as they will melt if exposed to heat. I am now eating them with every meal in place of dessert – they are just so delicious. My favourite are the coconut strawberry gummies! I bought my molds off of amazon & ensured they were food-grade safe silicone, 100% BPA-free, FDA approved and that they came with pipettes/droppers!
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Hope you love these as much as I do!

Tiara

DIY Compostable Face-mask

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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Here is the end result. Food that would have just gone straight into the compost was utilized and then turned into compost.
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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

Life in Plastic, it’s not so Fantastic

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As you all probably already know, I despise plastic. I keep looking for alternatives to everyday items that are commonly made of plastic. I lucked out when I came across these Oh My Woodness sunglasses (such a cute brandname too). These frames are made from wood & came packaged in a completely recyclable/reusable heavy duty cardboard slide box. I decided to pair them with this fun floral summer outfit.
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shirt: Vintage M Collection (thrifted) / pants: Aritzia / sunglasses: Smart Buy Sunglasses / purse: Viahera / shoes: thrifted vintage / necklace: Hillberg & Berk / bracelet: Paris Jewellers /
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sunglasses received from Smart Buy Glasses, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

– Tiara

Sustainability & Wildlife

With being an environmentalist and striving to live a more sustainable lifestyle, I wondered if there were any organizations that exist in Saskatoon which focus on sustainability or the environment. I just completed my fourth year in Renewable Resource Management at the University of Saskatchewan and I am working towards completing a soil science minor and a certificate in sustainability. Being aware of some local organizations that support these values is important to me. Luckily, I was able to meet with two women that run very different, but important charities here in Saskatoon.

Since I started my blog in September of 2013, I have given myself the freedom to present my interests and passions creatively and freely. One of my initial passions was sustainability and caring for the environment. Each year, I researched more, I learned more and challenged the modern way of life, which led to changing my way of life based on what I was learning about sustainability. I have changed multiple ways that I live my life and I keep making changes each month. Slowly but surely, I am working towards living a sustainable life.
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Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with Allyson from the Saskatchewan Environmental Society. The Saskatchewan Environmental Society (SES) is a non-profit, registered charity located in Saskatoon. They work on projects all across Saskatchewan. The SES concentrates on sustainable energy and climate solutions, water protection, resource conservation, biodiversity preservation and the reduction of toxic substances. Pretty badass, am I right? The goals that this society is working towards are vitally important and their focus on education is crucial. They even have a helpful page called Stuff I Can Do, which outlines some options of how to live more sustainably at home and at work. Their site is packed with useful information and can help aid you in your own personal research, as they provide many scientific publications for you to read. I was very excited to learn about the SES and I am very interested in the work they do.

I also had time to visit with Jan from the Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation Center here in Saskatoon. Animals take precedence over people here, that’s for sure. They provide treatment services that are needed to rehabilitate small birds and mammals. This includes providing a safe place for the injured or orphaned animals to mend until they are returned to their natural habitat (if possible).
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Both of these organizations are charities, which rely mostly on volunteer work. If you want to support either of these charities, they would greatly appreciate it. One of my favourite quotes is by Anna Lappe: “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”

– Tiara