Sustainable Fashion Spotlight & Interview: Sundays Designs

I recently had the pleasure of working with Sundays Designs (formerly Vegan Resortwear). Their founder, Edina, is so sweet and very dedicated to sustainable fashion and vegan living. Check out the interview I did with her below!

Pieces I’m wearing: Hermosa Linen Tie-Back Top Navy and Hermosa Linen Lounge Pants Oatmeal

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Sundays Designs: Allison, would you please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about you and your lifestyle? 

 Me: Hi! I’m from Scottsdale, AZ and currently live in Long Beach, CA. I’m a freelance graphic designer, photographer, stylist, and creative director. It’s awesome being my own boss! I also have an eco/vegan fashion, lifestyle, photography, and travel blog. 

 

Sundays Designs: You had been vegetarian for quite long time but later became a vegan. What’s your advice to those who have hard time starting Veganism or to those who are still transitioning and feeling stuck?

Me: To be honest, going vegan was the best thing I could have done for my health, the health of others, the environment and for animals in my lifetime. It’s such an extraordinary thing that you can heal your body from the inside out with plants and live a lifestyle of loving other sentient beings and our planet – and the food is amazing! When I see something non-vegan that looks and smells delicious, for example pizza, mac & cheese, or a cupcake, I just think to myself, “I don’t need this now, I can be patient to find a vegan version of this later.” It’s not about limiting your taste buds; it’s about finding alternatives that are better for you, others, the planet, and animals. 

 If you need any inspo for going vegan, there is an abundance of environmental and vegan Instagram accounts, and documentaries on the Internet that I swear by. I keep a list on my phone in case someone asks me for vegan inspiration because they are thinking about becoming one. 

Documentaries: Forks Over Knives, Earthlings, Cowspiracy, “The Best Speech You’ll Ever Hear” – Gary Y on YouTube, Food Choices, Vegucated, Live and Let Live, Simply Raw, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, Food Inc, Food Matters, Hungry For Change, Hell For Leather, 101 Reasons to Go Vegan, What the Health, etc.

Instagramers: @nutrition_facts_org, @sobeautifullyreal, @naturally.jo, @mindfuldiabeticrobby, @minimalistbaker, @nourishtheday, @bestofvegan, @vegancuts, @ehvegan, @365cleaneats, @yvonnesvegankitchen, @veganfoodpoint, @eatcleanwithsarah, @natalyahardan, @bionic_vegan, @avantgardevegan, @rainbowplantlife, @vegancommunity, @choosingchia, @loveandlemons, @theveganfiesta, @breezybalance, @lonijane, @panaceas_pantry, @veganfoodspot, @losvegangeles and @veganfatkid (if you’re in LA), @fullyrawkristina, @veganricha, @elsas_wholesomelife, @veganpregnancyandparenting (not now, but I still follow them for future knowledge haha), @vegan, @donutfriend, @cinnaholic, @eatdrinkvegan, @third_eye_vegan, @domzthompson, @veganwelcome, @crossroadskitchen, @vegetaryn, @plantpurenation, @ved_md, @veganflexzone, @farmsanctuary, @vegansofig, @ellenfisher, etc. etc. 

The reason people fail at being a vegan and end up going back to meat is often times because they lack creativity and motivation. Learning how to cook and learning how to cook vegan are both a challenge for some people and it can get boring and restrictive if you don’t intentionally seek out new things to make or have a 20-25 go-to meal ideas. If you have amazing vegan options at restaurants in your city – awesome! If not, cooking yourself will be even more essential. There are a lot of social, cultural, and environmental pressures that keep people “off track”, or “stuck in a rut”...it’s hard to change to vegan if you don’t live near many vegan options, or have family members who may be teasing you for your choices, but don’t forget; you have the resources and a massive vegan community that can help you!

My mother has her RN, MBA, and just finished her PhD in Nursing and Healthcare Innovation and is starting a company called WellOptima, that is especially, specifically designed for helping people who are “stuck” in changing their behavior—the whole point is to help people make changes in their health and wellness that they can “maintain”. She quickly turned vegan after I did, is an encyclopedia of knowledge on this topic and can assist in plant-based living and wellness motivation if you or someone you know could use it. 

 

Sundays Designs: We know how much you love to cook! Do you have any good vegan recipe book recommendations? 

 Me: I’m much more of a “buy it and look at the pretty pictures for inspo” type of recipe book buyer than one who actually follows recipes to a tee. Thug Kitchen is wildly entertaining and sassy in the verbiage and the food looks amazing. I also like Beautifully Real Food by one of my fave Instagram gals @sobeautifullyreal. Everything is actually so beautiful and I wish I could fly to Australia just to try some of her goodies she sells at a local shop there. 

 

Sundays Designs: Do you have a favorite recipe that you can share with us?

Me: Oh my goodness where do I start?! There are so many recipes I love but I don’t follow a lot of things precisely. I more have a general idea of what I want to make or look in the fridge for what ingredients need to be eaten first. We don’t like to have food go bad before we eat it! One particular one I love for the holidays coming up is raspberry cobbler. FAIR WARNING – this isn’t “healthy vegan”; this is “naughty vegan”. My mom would always make it for Thanksgiving growing up and since I, and then my family transitioned to vegans and mostly-vegans we altered the recipe so it’s vegan as well. Side note, my mom and I hope to make a cookbook together some day where we can include our favorites! This recipe is super simple and I’m going off of memory. 

 

Vegan Raspberry Cobbler

Ingredients:

½ cup organic vegan margarine (melted) 

½ cup organic sugar (for crumble)

1 cup organic all purpose flour

2 tbsp organic sugar (for raspberries)

3 cups organic fresh raspberries 

Directions: 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

2. Combine melted margarine, sugar, and flour into a mixing bowl until it’s a soft but crumbly dough. If it needs to be more crumbly, add more flour. If it needs to be softer, add more margarine. 

3. Take ½ of dough and press it into a lightly greased pan to create a thin crust – about the height of four pennies stacked. Bake in oven for 5-8 minutes while you wash and prep the berries.

4. Mix the sugar and fresh, washed raspberries in a bowl. 

5. Take out crust from oven and spread raspberry mixture on top. Take the remaining ½ of the crumble dough and disperse evenly on top. Place in the oven for 35-45 minutes or until top is golden brown. 

6. Top off with some vanilla vegan ice cream or eat as is! Enjoy!

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Sundays Designs: We think a vegan lifestyle should go hand in hand with living a sustainable lifestyle. When did you become more conscious about this lifestyle, and what inspired you? 

Me: I always said I would never be vegetarian, and then I turned 15 and my brother and his friends were blowing up little guppies and tiny critters in the backyard with explosive because boy teenagers (queue the eye roll) and I said on a whim that after that night I wanted to be a vegetarian because of animal cruelty. They all mocked me and said I’d never last. So at first I did it to show them that I could, and then I really became to love it and learned more about it.  

Then college happened and I had a random vegan roommate for a summer my junior year. I never wanted to go vegan because I loved cheese, sweets, and all my designer purses/shoes too much. I loved fashion and luxurious things. I wanted to be comfortably unaware; I knew if I saw the documentaries I wouldn’t be able to look back. Whelp, you guessed it… I watched the documentaries and she turned me real quick – only took about a month for me to go vegan haha. 

At first, I only ate vegan and still wore my leather/suede shoes and bags even though I kinda felt guilty. It wasn’t until the summer after college when I was moving to Long Beach where I realized I had to cut down my wardrobe by at least 1/3rd. This meant I had to get rid of all the animal products. Almost everyday that summer I would go to work and come home and list my non-vegan pieces on Poshmark or eBay as well as clothing that wasn’t my style or didn’t fit anymore. It was a lot of work and I was actually very sad about letting some things go but it was much needed. I had a shopping addiction since I was in high school and certain pieces made me feel so good. It was difficult but after that transition it got a lot easier.

From there I started learning more about sustainable, ethical, and vegan fashion and fell in love with fashion all over again. But this time, it was different. It was about being a conscious consumer with everything - what’s on your plate, what you wear, and the products you buy and use. Now, I use every chance I get to educate friends, family, and strangers on the affects our purchases have on the planet and most of them are in complete disbelief. I also have become an avid compost scrap collector, recycler, and bring my own containers and utensils everywhere. I’m not zero waste, but I definitely try to do low-waste living as best I can. I feel like a whole new person than I was three or four years ago. 

 

Sundays Designs: What are the most important aspects to you regarding ethical and sustainable brands? 

Me:

1. Has to be vegan - obviously

2. Sustainable materials  - linen, modal, tencel, organic cotton, recycled cotton, eucalyptus, hemp, bamboo, etc.

3. Sustainable production - methods that enhance sustainability like less water, less waste, zero waste, eco friendly factory, safe/natural dyes, etc.

4. Ethical production - workers treated fairly, fair-trade, no sweatshops, etc.

5. Country of origin - Generally, the USA, Europe, Australia, and Canada have better and safer regulations for workers than Asia, Africa, and Central/South America. However, it depends on the factory – I’ve heard of some in Mexico and India, for example, that are higher quality and more sustainable and ethical than alternative factories in the USA. 

6. Charitable and give to philanthropic causes - Love this one! Bonus if the charity is sustainability, vegan, animal welfare, or environment related.

7. Transparency - I love to see photos of factories, workers, etc.

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 Sundays Designs: What’s your fashion look? 

Me: My fashion look is mostly bohemian, and mixed with romantic, edgy, and vintage/retro. 

 

Sundays Designs: What’s your opinion on “sustainable” leather, silk and wool products? Could these be ever sustainable? 

Me: This is a highly debated topic and everyone is open to their own opinion, but for me, I do not find these materials sustainable or ethical. The only argument you can make for “sustainable leather” is if you bought something secondhand at a thrift or consignment store, but even then it doesn’t check off the “ethical” box for me because I’d be walking around with a dead animal on my feet. Saying leather is a “bi-product” of the meat industry and that using it is sustainable because it’s not going to waste is just naïve; leather on its own is a huge industry and billions of animals are slaughtered for it, not just cows. 

Although I no longer purchase wool or silk, I’m much more lenient on these than I am with leather products. I think out of my whole closet I may still have a couple silk or wool-based pieces but I’m in the process of weeding those out and selling them. Harvesting wool is often unethical as wool farmers often gash, cut, and harm the animals in the process of cutting their wool from their bodies but the process itself doesn’t kill the animal. There are some “ethical” wool harvesters that boast about how well they treat their sheep, but it’s still not our wool to take even though it’s a much more natural fiber than the typical plastic-based wool alternative, acrylic. As for silk, this is a more natural fiber as well compared to the plastic-based polyester. The process of harvesting the silk kills so many worms. To be honest, I really don’t like bugs and the process kind of grosses me out just thinking of larvae and their cocoons. Basically, leather kills the animal, wool harms the animal, and silk kills most of the worms but I don’t consider them to have the morality or consciousness that a cow, pig, sheep, etc. would have. 

 

Sundays Designs: As a photographer who loves to travel, what’s your favorite location you have been so far, and what’s on your bucket list? 

 Me: My list is never-ending! It’s too hard to pick one, but some of my favorite places I’ve been to are Morocco, Belize, Thailand, Laos, Australia, Chile, Argentina, Guatemala, Italy, Alaska, Israel, and Spain. My top three places on my bucket list right now are Bali, Costa Rica, and Iceland. 

 

Sundays Designs: Do you prefer AirBnb or eco-resorts? 

Me: I’ve only stayed in one true eco-resort and it was the vegan Stanford Inn in Mendocino, CA. Cha Creek in Belize was very eco-friendly as well and a beautiful hidden gem in the jungle. They were amazing but I do love the flexibility of Airbnbs. It honestly depends on if I’m on a trip with my family or if I’m with friends. Family – eco resort 100% (also, mom and dad are paying). Friends – Airbnb 100% because it normally ends up being cheaper, we have more space, and you have way more freedom. 

 

Sundays Designs: What changes do you want to see in the fashion world in the future?

Me: I’d love to see more vegan, sustainable, and ethical options popping up! I want to see more designers and brand seeking alternatives. The information, resources, and materials are out there; I think there just needs to be more effort put in by consumers. The more consumers demand, the more shift we’ll be able to make! 

I also really struggle to find trendy vegan wide brim hats, so if there’s someone out there reading this that has been thinking about doing this, PLEASE DO. So many of them have wool, leather, and suede on them and it’s pretty disappointing. I get most of mine off of Poshmark but settle for the cheaper made ones because they are “vegan”. Most other fashion pieces I can find cute and vegan though. 

In addition, shout out to Stella McCartney for basically being the only luxury vegan brand. I think if more big designers and brands followed her example, people would think going vegan would be a whole lot easier. People are all about convenience, if it’s convenient to buy vegan at any price without scarifying quality or trend why wouldn’t you?

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Zero Waste Feature: Denim UnSpun

I had the chance to work with zero waste brand Denim UnSpun and did a little interview for them as well. The zero waste method that they use is super cool! Essentially you go to a place that does full body scans where it takes all your measurements. These measurements are then sent to the brand for manufacturing. I went to Rapid Scan 3D just a few minutes from my place in Long Beach. This production method is much more sustainable than typical brands that mass produce. The jeans are very customizable; you can pick length, color, fit, rise, etc. Stoked that I got to work with Denim Unspun!

Denim Unspun: What inspires you to promote sustainable fashion?

Me: I’ve loved fashion ever since I was little, but I didn’t realize the devastating impact the industry is having on our planet until a few years ago. After being vegetarian 7 years, then going vegan 3 years ago, I started to be more conscious in my fashion purchases as I was trying to avoid animal products. I got more and more knowledgeable on the topic and it became something that I HAD to share with the world. It’s a topic so many people have no idea even exists or care about and we need to change that. The betterment of the planet, the health and well-being of others (workers/manufacturers/laborers), our own health (yes, the clothes you wear can effect your health by leaching toxins into your skin!), and not hurting or killing animals are my inspiration. 

 

Denim Unspun: In what ways has conscientiousness made you look and feel even better?

Me: I wouldn’t say I necessarily look better by dressing conscientious, but my sense of style is still just as strong as it once was, however it has evolved through the years to be more mature (“adulting” you could say!). I’m just much more particular and thoughtful now in the things that I buy and wear. However, I do feel more emotionally and consciously happy knowing that I’m causing the least amount of damage as I can - that I’m not living with blindfolds on like most of the population. 

 

Denim Unspun: Seeing that your feed is very nature-bounded, what do you think is your connection with nature?

Me: I’ve always loved traveling, adventures, being outdoors, and connecting and appreciating our mother Earth. It fills my soul with so much joy! In today’s world, there is so much waste EVERYWHERE, so I love to see areas where the environment is clean, it gives me hope! 

 

Denim Unspun: What do you think is the future of fashion?

Me: The fashion industry isn’t going anywhere, but it will evolve. I see more and more ethical, sustainable, and vegan brands popping up all the time. Sure, not many of them are super huge, but the more we support them the bigger they’ll grow! 

There are some really cool advancements going on with different plant based fibers like fabrics made from coconuts, pineapples, mushroom, oranges, grapes, apples, kombucha, yeast, etc., but for now, I think it will primarily be the more popular and commercialized plant based or sustainable fibers like bamboo, linen, tencel, modal, hemp, recycled polyester, recycled cotton, organic cotton, and eucalyptus. 

I think the stigma of secondhand fashion is also starting to shift. Shopping secondhand is the single biggest way to shop sustainably because the items already exist and you’re creating less demand for new items from the manufacturers, less waste, and less pollution. I was brought up in a wealthy area that deemed secondhand shopping was only for poor people, so that was in my head for quite a while growing up! Now that I’ve had my “vegan, ethical, sustainable awakening” (haha), I’m much more educated on the topic and almost exclusively shop secondhand. Also when shopping secondhand, I make my buying allowance only the balance/credit that I’ve accumulated from selling so it keeps it at a nice cycle and I’m not dipping into my bank account for shopping. I would say 95% of the newer items in my closet that are not secondhand were a part of a collab with a sustainable, ethical, and/or vegan brand. 

 

Denim Unspun: For anyone who wish to start buying sustainable fashion, what would be your first piece of advise for them?

Me: Think secondhand first! Thrifting in-store can be a little exhausting, I get it! If that’s too much for you, try Poshmark, Ebay, Mercari, Tradesy, thredUp, Depop, etc. You can also be more specific with online because you can narrow down the exact thing you’re looking for rather than scouring a whole store in-person so it can save you time. Unfortunately, with online though you also have shipping fees, transportation pollution, and have to wait much longer to get the product. Thrifting in-store is more sustainable and is more for leisure shopping. There are also other fun things like secondhand subscription boxes like Material World and clothing swapping sites like Swap Society. If you’re not looking to buy secondhand, seek out ethical, sustainable, and vegan companies. You vote with your wallet, and it’s always best to go with a company that has similar values. 

Don’t think that you need to be perfect or give away your clothes that aren’t “sustainable” or pieces from fast fashion brands. It takes a while to accumulate sustainable pieces, however, wearing what you already have is the biggest way to make an impact.  This is the part of the fashion industry that’s often overlooked. How we care for our clothes and how often we wear them makes a difference! For example, having a piece from a fast fashion brand that you’ve had 10+ years and worn 100+ times gives it a long life cycle and although the garment itself wasn’t made sustainably, how you care for it can be. In contrast, you buy something from an ethical brand that you maybe wear 5 times before you’re over it and then give it away/sell it; it’s life cycle with you as the owner is much less. Hopefully, if this is the case, you can give it a nice home with a different owner, rather than it going to donations or landfill.  

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Flagstaff / Grand Canyon / Sedona feat. Eco Brand Groceries Apparel and Lillian & Co

As spring winds down and turns into summer, my schedule has gotten so busy that I’m actually writing this a couple months late. I really need to be more prompt in writing after a trip! I went on a trip to northern Arizona at the end of March and into early April with my parents and boyfriend, Zach, during his grad school spring break.  Here is the short and sweet version, and some info Groceries Apparel and Lillian & Co.—two companies I worked with on this trip.

We drove from Scottsdale to Flagstaff and spent the afternoon there. We enjoyed a Thai vegan lunch at Red Curry, and went on a short hike nearby after lunch. We then continued our drive north to the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

Once we arrived at the Grand Canyon, we checked into El Tovar for two nights--a beautiful historic hotel right at the rim--and did a little sunset walk—it was simply spectacular.  The location I would rate 10/10, hotel 7/10—very nice, but dated, older, smaller rooms—so much history!  The hotel and surrounding Grand Canyon area had instituted strict conservation measures due to a water shortage.  All food service in the dining area and throughout the hotel used disposables since washing dishes for a hotel would use excessive amounts of water.  While my inner “eco-warrior” was uncomfortable with using all the plastic and disposables, sometimes there are other more immediate priorities to address. The Grand Canyon surrounding area was experiencing a water and environmental crisis. AHH!! It was actually kind of funny sitting down to a fancy restaurant and being served on paper and plastic plates and dishes.

The Grand Canyon was seriously so stunning! I have been to the Grand Canyon a few times, but each time it takes my breath away with how beautiful and vast the canyon really is. It is just impossible to capture its true expanse and majesty in a photo.  We did all the touristy stuff there is to do on the south rim for two days and ate at the 3-4 local restaurants there.

We then made our way down to Sedona where we stayed at the Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa for a few nights. We hiked, we ate, we explored, we enjoyed the spa, we watched the sunset, and we enjoyed each other’s company! We also went to one of my favorite Arizona restaurants, Picazzo’s. Although it’s not a vegan or gluten-free place, the menu has sooo many vegan and gluten-free options. I’m not gluten-free, BRING ON THE BREAD – but as a vegan, I do feel the celiac’s struggle with eating out sometimes.

I worked with sustainable fashion brand, Groceries Apparel, on this trip which was so much fun--I love spreading their message! Their factory is based in Los Angeles (I toured it last September!), they sustainably source materials, dye “in house”, use 100% organic and recycled fabrics that don’t kill the planet, and are ethical all the way around in their business practices. I’m wearing cream organic cotton Lindsey Top, black eucalyptus fiber Cypress Tunic, black eucalyptus fiber Mariah Top, and the navy eucalyptus fiber tencel Magnolia Cardigan. Their products are so soft, biodegrade, are free from all the toxic chemicals and are classic pieces that won’t go out of style.

I also had the pleasure of working with Lillian & Co, which is a USA-based jewelry line, which empowers women through thoughtful and inspirational messages. I’m wearing “Wandering Free” in rose gold and “Adventure Is Out There” in gold. I love the adventure and explorer vibes, so these messages are personally inspiring to me, but there are so many other inspirational and faith-based messages for all types of women and their interests and values.

Overall, my road trip with my favorite people was so much fun. Can’t wait to do it again sometime soon!

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What constitutes eco and ethical fashion?

When people ask me about my interests, and I tell them "eco and ethical fashion", many have never heard of these terms--and so there is often some confusion about what I am even talking about.  So I'm here to clear things up and provide you with some information and perspective on something very near and dear to my heart. 

"Eco" (ecological or sustainable) fashion is clothing that is kind/good to the EARTH, and "ethical" fashion is kind/good to PEOPLE (and animals).  Eco fashion is not always ethical, just like ethical fashion is not always good for the environment--but when your fashion items are both eco and ethical, its a win-win for both the environment AND people! 

Photo by me, taken at MATE the Label, Headquarters in Los Angeles, a brand dedicated to sustainability.

Photo by me, taken at MATE the Label, Headquarters in Los Angeles, a brand dedicated to sustainability.

EXAMPLES OF "ECO FASHION" PRACTICES:

-Buying secondhand from a thrift or consignment store (this is the most sustainable option): 1. These items are discarded or donated as the owner no longer wants them. If these are not given to a secondhand store or new owner they will be thrown away, likely into landfill waste. 2. You can use less gas by shopping at small, "local" thrift and consignment stores that are often within your own community.  3. You are literally REDUCING your total purchases at a normal retailer, the cost of the item (your wallet thanks you!), and your environmental footprint, REUSING someone’s discarded clothing, and RECYCLING the items back into your closet so the pieces can have a new life. 

-Buying secondhand from an online store such as Tradesy, eBay, Poshmark, Mercari, Depop, thredUP, etc. Buying online as opposed to in person is slightly less sustainable as you have to factor in environmental pollution from packaging materials and shipping/transportation.

-Buying something secondhand that is still new from online or in-store. Not all secondhand items have to be "used". Although buying new secondhand items is slightly less sustainable than buying used, it still offsets the manufacturing and production impacts in comparison to buying new straight from the company or retailer. A great item to buy secondhand that is new is swimwear, as it seems unhygienic to most people to purchase swimwear worn by other individuals. 

-Using more sustainable fabrics such linen, hemp, modal, tencel, etc. Bonus if you use organic! 

-Using recycled fibers, fabrics, and materials. An example would be using old plastic bottles to spin into fibers and then into fabric to make a new shirt. 

-Upcycling fabrics and clothing items. This is not to be confused with recycling as upcycling does not go through a shred>spin>new fabric cycle that recycling does. Upcycling keeps the general fabric components. An example would be cutting up an old t-shirt and making a reusable grocery bag out of it. 

-Purchasing products from companies who implement sustainable practices and elements in their production, factories, packaging, etc. 

-Purchasing products that use natural dyes like vegetables or seaweed instead of harsh chemical dyes that impact your health and the environment.

 

EXAMPLES OF "ETHICAL FASHION" PRACTICES:

-Having a "Sweatshop" free environment: There should be no harsh working conditions for the employees, all the design and production and shipping facilities and factories must comply with state/country regulations and standards.

-Fair Trade: Workers are compensated fairly for their work in accordance with regulations and wage guidelines.  

-Any initiatives, programs, partnerships, etc. that a brand may have that is dedicated to social/environmental good.  An example could be an artisan jewelry company that donates a percentage of profits to the World Wildlife Foundation or charity wellness programs for the artisans who make the jewelry. 

Taken at MATE the Label Headquarters. Wearing vegan hat, MATE the Label organic cotton tee, thrifted vegan belt from Poshmark, Boyish by Her jeans made from 30% recycled denim and 70% BCI cotton (Better Cotton Initiative) designed by one of my best friends Nicole Azevedo, and vegan Coconuts by Matisse x Free People booties.

Taken at MATE the Label Headquarters. Wearing vegan hat, MATE the Label organic cotton tee, thrifted vegan belt from Poshmark, Boyish by Her jeans made from 30% recycled denim and 70% BCI cotton (Better Cotton Initiative) designed by one of my best friends Nicole Azevedo, and vegan Coconuts by Matisse x Free People booties.

OVERLAP - CAN BE BOTH ECO & ETHICAL

Made in America: Most clothing items made in the United States are not necessarily eco-friendly or sustainable. However, if the clothing is made in the United States, wages and working conditions in American factories are usually better than in other countries, due to stricter regulations and workplace standards. However, there have been reports that there are still sweatshops in the US where workers are not earning minimum wage, or are required to work long hours or work in other potentially hazardous conditions, so try to do some research. By shopping local(ish), you also cut down on transportation pollution. Something shipped within the same state or country has much less of a transportation environmental impact than something shipped from overseas. Some companies take greater measures to implement sustainable practices and materials than others. Depending on the company or brand though, you could be shopping both eco and ethical made in the USA items! Bonus: by purchasing items within country or state lines, you're also supporting the economy and hardworking Americans! 

Made in Europe, Australia, or Canada generally have similar working conditions to the US. 

Vegan Fashion:

Vegan fashion includes clothing items that are free of any animal products! This means no leather, suede, wool, silk, cashmere, fur, etc. The debate of vegan fashion needs to be addressed--you can make the case that it is eco or unsustainable and you can also make the case that it's ethical and non-ethical.  Every situation requires a bit of thoughtful analysis--Here are a couple of examples:  

Example 1: Company X sells Vegan shoes for ($10 - $30)

-Eco: Good because you're using much less resources to produce the fabrics and materials to make the shoes. Bad because this particular company is known for its pollution, harsh chemicals, etc. to produce shoes--thus potentially harming both the environment and workers' health. 

-Ethical: Good because you're not harming animals, but not so good because this company may cut corners in taking good care of their employees, and not pay them a fair wage for work, and there have less than good working conditions in their factories. 

Lower price point items are typically made cheap, do not last as long, but are much less likely to have animal products, whereas most more expensive items (unfortunately) are made with animal products and are durable. This is not the case with all brands and items though.

Example 2: Company Y sells Vegan shoes ($500+)

Eco: This company as a brand is dedicated to sustainability efforts in every area of its development and production.

Ethical: This brand is ethical all the way around - to humans, animals, and the environment. 

Promoting and practicing sustainable initiatives. Environmental sustainability is both a concern for both ethical fashion and eco fashion. While it is both eco and ethical--there is sometimes a conflict in that you can't always afford to buy the most expensive items you'd like--a good time for shopping for resale.

 

Reflect

I hope this information helps you think about the purchases that you make and the types of companies you support. This has been quite the learning process and journey for me over the last few years and I’m always learning more about this topic and am happy to share with you all. As sustainable/ethical fashion awareness grows, so does the industry. Consumer demand drives companies to make changes, so the more we learn and talk about these issues, the more companies will shift their mindset. Let’s #MakeShiftHappen! 

Zero Waste Toothpaste feat. Gondola Bamboo Toothbrushes

In honor of Earth Day tomorrow, I’d like to encourage conversation about “living more sustainably”.  Small changes can make a difference! I try my best to introduce and continue sustainable practices whenever possible (and practical).  Many of us create a lot of unnecessary waste in our beauty and hygiene routines. *Queue the sighs and eye rolls*

BUT HEAR ME OUT! I’m not saying you have to be super rigid or extreme about your getting ready routine, but why not try to implement a more sustainable option every few days? Or even better, make it your daily routine if it works well for you!  

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I started using a compostable toothbrush a little less than a year ago and have since gone through a few of them (your toothbrush should be replaced every couple of months!).  They are gentle on my sensitive teeth, but also clean the teeth and gums very well. The best part? I can reduce my disposable plastic consumption! Gondola brushes are one of the best deals out there for bamboo toothbrushes, and you can find them on Amazon.

I started using bamboo toothbrushes after I saw reports of plastic toothbrushes (and other plastic) that ends up polluting the environment--floating in oceans, littering beaches, and ending up in the bellies of marine creatures. Plastic doesn’t fully decompose, it just degrades, eventually getting cut up into smaller pieces of plastic called microplastics-- Yikes!

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I also use homemade “zero-waste” toothpaste and supplement this with natural toothpaste products which can be purchased at most health food stores. Since you hopefully are taking care of yourself to brush your teeth two to three times a day anyway, it’s nice to switch up your toothpaste products a bit for some variety, and have your store-bought brands last a little longer.  Plastic toothpaste tubes are one more piece of plastic that ends up in the trash once all the toothpaste has been squeezed out. The very few that you do find with metal-based packaging are extremely difficult to recycle.

Fair warning… zero waste toothpaste will not have the same creaminess and smoothness as store-bought brands, but they it is still very effective in cleaning those pearly whites! The baking soda/coconut oil based ones, like mine, may have a little salty taste as well.  Spirulina powder assists in the re-mineralization of teeth but also gives it that nice minty green color. This recipe is refreshing, but go in with an open mind and remember this is not your typical toothpaste! So without further adieu, here’s the recipe!

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Zero Waste Toothpaste

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- 3 Tbsp coconut oil

- 1 ½ Tbsp baking soda

- 30-35 drops peppermint essential oil or extract

- ¼ Tbsp Spirulina Powder

(Bonus if these are organic!)

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- Combine ingredients in small container. I used a tiny glass mason jar.

- If coconut oil is crumbly or not completely smooth, melt over heat or in microwave.

- Cool toothpaste in fridge until it solidifies to room temperature coconut oil structure

- Apply a small amount to  your bamboo toothbrush, and brush brush brush all tooth surfaces, and concentrate on the gumline--for two minutes--then rinse – you know the drill!

TIP: You can use a small metal spoon or wooden scooper to apply toothpaste. Don’t dip your brush in the paste directly… that’s how you can spread germs! You can also transfer your mixture to a reusable squeeze tube if that makes it easier. Hope you enjoy!

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My Low-Waste (Vegan) Lifestyle

I do my very best to reduce trash and disposables in my life, but I am not full “zero-waste”. I eat no animal products (dairy, eggs, meat, fish, and honey) and avoid wearing animal products like leather and suede. I’d like my lifestyle choices to be kind to the environment in as many ways as I can. 

I cleared my closet of animal products when I moved to California almost 2 years ago. I may still have a few items with leather embellishment and maybe a wool hat or two but it's hard to tell exactly what it's made of if it's missing a materials tag. Not going to lie — me being a fashionista my whole life, this cleanse was tough, but I feel so much better now! 

I think that this is a big step toward living in a more sustainable manner.  I've only personally met a handful of people that live a full vegan lifestyle and only one that was “zero-waste” — sure I see the ones on social media, but in general, these lifestyles are very rare. When you limit all of your shopping options to this level, it can be overly restrictive. Anything extra that you can do to reduce the amount of animal products and garbage/waste that you consume or produce is a good option! I like to think of searching for vegan low or zero-waste items as an opportunity and challenge to find more sustainable items/products/food. It makes me very happy when I choose kindness for both people and the planet.  :) 

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So, while I am moving towards more “zero-waste” options, I am really more “low-waste”… I could never do full “zero-waste” for a few key reasons: 

1. Convenience, time, and my taste buds are a big factor. I like my tofu, tempeh, soy/pea protein vegan meats, seitan, almond based yogurt, vegan coconut milk ice cream mochi (when I can find it), and vegan cheese. I just don’t have the time or resources to make all of these products myself. I can make a bomb cashew cheese and cashew cheese sauce, fresh pesto, lentil bolognaise sauce, and attempt some homemade seitan or nut milks – but the rest of the items seem pretty out of my league. If you know where to get some of these products zero-waste around Long Beach (or LA/OC within a reasonable distance) let me know!

2. I like to wear makeup. Nothing too crazy, but just the basics! I haven’t found a vegan, cruelty-free, makeup brand that has the products I normally use with a recycling program or with compostable/fully recyclable packaging. If you know of any, hit me up! I also go through makeup extremely slowly, which is a good thing — it’s not like I am using a lot of product or packaging. I’ve had my daily eyeshadow and bronzer for at least four or five years, so some perspective is in order!

3. You must consider your own living environment, and others. Composting in an apartment can be obviously difficult, and impractical, depending on your living situation. We currently have limited freezer space for me to freeze scraps and take to a composting site later on. I would love to start composting someday — I saw a super cool composter that turns food scraps into soil within 24 hours on Kickstarter! Expense, appropriate space, and facilities is a common barrier, so you may certainly have to scale back what you can do until you can be in the proper space, place and time. Having a yard, garden, or a really convenient setup makes a huge difference in how all this can work. Typically local urban gardens will take your compost or in some big cities have services or drop off sites. You also don’t want your struggle for an environmentally low-impact lifestyle to have a high negative impact on your relationships with your roommate, spouse, or significant other. While being kind to the environment is important, people come first — for some things, it’s always best to just do your best, and not obsess! 

4. A lot of mailed packages arrive encased in Styrofoam or other non-recyclable materials. I did learn recently that the City of Los Angeles will recycle styrofoam, but Long Beach will not even though it's technically LA County (sigh). And yes, the items delivered I cannot get second-hand or at a thrift shop. Whenever I know I can buy something elsewhere without the waste, I do so! I’ve heard of some zero-waste people taking these materials back to the post office, but I need to look more into this. 

5. Traveling and eating out can be a barrier as well. I always bring my metal cutlery set but often when doing either of these things, restaurants prepare meals with unnecessary disposables despite ordering from more health conscious/vegan-friendly places.

6. Medical and necessary health products are a must. If you have regular medicines, get sick, or have another issue that requires medical attention, you need to use the proper products to aid your health — many of which have extra waste and packaging for sterilization and sanitation purposes.

Despite my handful of barriers, I’m really trying my best to reduce plastic use and disposables when I can. I’ve been researching zero-waste places to buy products around me and have found some great spots. One spot in particular is called Co-Opportunity in Culver City. It is amazing! They have a location in Santa Monica too but it doesn’t have a deli. They have so many items in bulk. You can get apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, liquid soaps, detergents, lotion, buy zero-waste by bringing your own containers or buy the glass mason jars they have there.

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I had been using zero-waste shampoo and conditioner bars, and although I loved the shampoo, the conditioner didn’t actually make my hair silky or help me get out knots so I was super excited to find some liquid shampoo and conditioner that I could refill! It’s vegan, eco-friendly, smells like lavender, and works wonders. What a find!

I’ve been in the process of replacing my pantry items into jars. I got a label maker — yeah I know, also not technically zero-waste, but it reduces a lot of packaging in the long run and I need to know what’s in my jars! It’s been great to see my pantry evolve.

Baby steps people, baby steps! Kindness to people and the planet!  You can live a lower-waste life and make a positive impact on people and the planet through your example.

This is all pretty new and exciting for me and I’m happy to share the resources and practices I’ve learned so far with you. Here’s to learning more about a low-waste lifestyle, educating those who aren’t familiar, and to reducing your carbon footprint and environmental impact through daily actions and lifestyle choices!

Remember, you certainly don’t have to be perfect at all of this to make a big difference. Any little bit you can do helps a lot!

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Why no straw? Finding better ways to suck it up

There seems to be a war on plastic nowadays, yet so many people still don't see the harm in using plastic straws. For most of us, straws are an unnecessary convenience. Don't get me wrong, I love using straws, but I dislike the environmental impact that disposables are having on our environment.

My teeth are very sensitive to cold, so I like to use straws for cold drinks. It’s also nice when you’re drinking a smoothie (me everyday) and you don’t have to lick your upper lip after every sip and can keep your lipstick (if you’re wearing any) looking nice.

According to ocean conservation non-profit, 5gyres, “we use more than 500 million plastic straws each day.Get Green Now estimates that, “each year 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals die from ingesting plastic.” These are alarming statistics that should cause us to stop and consider our own overuse of plastic.

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Reasons to Reduce plastic straw use:

1. They are not easily recycled. This is because they are made from polypropylene (plastic number 5) which is not accepted by most recycling plants. Small single pieces of plastic are difficult to sort and recycle appropriately. Also, for sanitation reasons, straws provided in restaurants are often individually wrapped in additional paper or plastic.

2. They never truly biodegrade, they just degrade through cycles. Biodegrading is a natural process in which microorganisms decompose the item and the item is naturally recycled into new organic molecules and life. When something degrades, it just breaks down into smaller pieces, but it’s still just plastic. This eventually forms microplastics, which contaminate our waterways and oceans along with other pollution and trash.

3. They pollute our ocean, environment, and harm wildlife. Microplastics can get into our seafood, which you can then ingest. Yikes! Plastic pollution impacts much more than just the handful of species that humans choose to eat--turtles, dolphins, whales, birds, seals, sharks, fish, etc. and any other creatures in or near the water are affected. 

Although the convenience of plastic straws is great, it’s just not sustainable, and there are some better options out there.

I recently had the pleasure of working with reusable straw company, Eco at Heart. They specialize in stainless steel straws with normal and smoothie size variations as well as short, tall, and bent straws.

They are one of the many companies working hard to make a difference. Other companies make rubbery silicone straws and compostable paper straws, however the life cycle for these is not as strong. Silicone ones are great because they are washable, reusable, and won’t injure your mouth or teeth—however, they also do not decompose, biodegrade, and can’t be properly recycled. Compostable paper ones are nice for a one time use, but that’s exactly what they are – a ONE time use. You need to keep buying them and they would need to be composted each time to actually have a closed loop life cycle.

 

tips for reducing plastic straw use:

1. Invest $10-20 in some reusable straws (I recommend metal for long time wear and closed loop life cycle).

2. Next time you’re out eating at a restaurant, just ask for no straw – it’s that easy! 

3. If you work at a restaurant, only give straws if the customer asks for one. 

4. Cut back on super cold or icy drinks that promote straw use in general.

5. Bring your own straw. I have a little metal cutlery pouch for those times on the go that contains a small spoon, big spoon, fork, straw, and it used to have a knife until I forgot to remove it before I tried to go through airport security : (. You can always bring your own straw to use when eating out. Trust me, it’s not as weird as you think – people actually have commended me for bringing it!

6. If you opt for reusable straws, be sure to clean them thoroughly with the proper tools.

7. Young children should not be using metal straws as they can be dangerous. This is where the silicone ones are helpful! Chew on those bad boys all you want and no harm no foul. 

8. Be kind! Remember to not freak out if you see others using plastic straws. Some people (especially older and younger) need a straw because of functional or structural limitations in drinking or swallowing. You can always encourage reusables or no-straw in a positive way. This also applies to when you're at a restaurant and you ask for no straw and the waiter brings it in your drink anyway. There isn't much you can do here because it's going in the trash whether you take it out of your drink or not. You can try and save it for later and recycle it, but as stated above - plastic straws are very difficult to recycle. Just be polite and say thank you.

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