Unpacking With Lex: Toxic AF III — Popping Fashion’s Bubble


Going eco-friendly? This week we’re unpacking the complexities & conundrums associated with sustainable fashion. Here’s our go-to guide to reflecting on what & how to change your shopping, buying & clothing habits.

Unpacking With Lex is a monthly column examining current issues affecting mamas and kiddos — often outside of our respective bubbles. We welcome you. Pour a cuppa, grab your coffee or sip on a cocktail while our resident nerd provides the TME lowdown on topics worth noting. Let’s get cozy.

Whew, Friends…it has been awhile. That’s not to say I haven’t been here — perpetually unpacking since I left you last — I have. It just means that I have like four unpacking posts in the works and it’s been difficult to focus on just ONE — mainly because EVERYTHING is on fire right now — mostly the U.S. Constitution, human decency and the planet, but that is quite enough to have me switching from draft to draft tilting at windmills à la Don Quixote. Also, the Nordstrom Sale and crazy summer day camp scheduling. Oi.

SO, since the Amazon is literally on fire, we’re going to start there.

The Amazon Rainforest is on fire. This is the single most alarming event for life on planet Earth — “The Amazon is often referred to as the Earth’s “lungs,” because its vast forests release oxygen and store carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas that is a major cause of global warming. If enough rain forest is lost and can’t be restored, the area will become savanna, which doesn’t store as much carbon and would mean a reduction in the planet’s “lung capacity.” Read more about the background here: Amazon Rainforest Fires: Here’s What’s Really Happening, and an updated version here: The Amazon is Still On Fire, Environmental Groups Remind World Leaders Amid Climate Summit.

When I mentioned in April that poem I’d written in place of a college essay, I had no idea how much closer to the destruction of the rainforest we’d be now than we were then….In just four months…In just 23 years. But here we are. Greta Thunberg’s anger is justified. On a recent episode of On Being, Krista Tippett cites Sister Helen Prejean, a great opponent of the death penalty, who said, “Anger is a moral response.” TRUE.

Between now and my last Unpacking Toxic AF, EVERYONE’s started paying attention. It’s as if Earth Day happened and hasn’t stopped since — which is kind of good thing. Actually — it’s pretty heady — amazing, confounding and necessary. We’re going to touch on most of that (including your reader suggestions) in Toxic AF II, but we’re flying into Toxic AF III first.

The Amazon rainforest fires precipitated a gestalt shift for us. You can read about it in Shana’s post from last month, where she announced our sustainable mission and launched our sustainable shopping page. Much like the fashion industry itself, we’re trying TO HURRY UP AND ADDRESS THE DIRE NEEDS OF PLANET EARTH. In addition to our newly launched sustainable mission and shopping page, we’re adapting our approach to blog posts, and we’re all getting educated.

YES, we are a consumption-oriented blog, and the fashion industry (specifically fast fashion) is a produce-consume-dispose-of model. That is quickly (as in since 2019) changing, and so are we. What that means for us is that three other Unpacking posts on are hold (including the one in which we share your reader suggestions for saving the planet, we’re going out of order here) and we’re going to talk about sustainable fashion, eco-friendly fashion, circular fashion, whatever you want to call it: HOW DO WE DO GETTING DRESSED IN AN ECO-FRIENDLY WAY???

As you read this, keep in mind what the experts keep telling us: we are, in fact, beyond the point where individual, house-to-house changes will make much of a difference (we’ll cover that next time when we circle back). IT DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD STOP DOING THEM. It means we just all need to take action, collectively, and do it all. In other words, perhaps those small changes (metal straws, solar panels, reusable bags) should probably be mandatory (as Brian Lehrer subtly suggested to listeners the day after the CNN Climate Town Hall), while we need to expend our time and energy organizing and focusing on collective action to change the oil & gas, transportation, agriculture-for-food and fashion industries.

Today, we’re just focusing on the fashion.

Steps To Embracing “Sustainable” Fashion

Everyone wears clothes, everyone wants to look and feel good, and everyone wants a healthy environment in which they and future generations can thrive.”

Retail is really grappling with what and how to change in order to become more Earth-friendly(and so are we, to be fair). There’s a whole host of initiatives that companies can pursue and embrace in order to reduce their impact on the environment. There’s also a whole host of actions we ourselves can take to reduce our consumption of harmful textiles and negative impact on the planet. Here are a few: 

1. Get Educated On Transparency

Transparency is probably the single most important factor for companies in terms of earth-friendliness. Without it, it’s impossible to declare that you’re doing any better for the planet. Transparency refers to the amount and quality of information that companies and brands share with their stakeholders, ranging from everything such as where their factories are, what materials are used and how products are being processed, to how much their employees make or what human rights protections the garment workers actually have. It’s insight into the supply chain, and includes a company’s social and environmental practices, goals and governance. Shana and I could really go down the rabbit hole and round-and-round (we have been) about what exactly is good enough — or even good enough for us to recommend a brand, retailer or product as sustainable or earth-friendlier or whatever. You’ll see a reflection of that on our new Sustainable Shopping Page where we highlight brands and products that are actually taking steps (not just setting goals) toward earth-friendlier production. 

Transparency Resources & Articles

Fashion Transparency Index (2019): This is a super-thorough resource. I really value the actual scoring of the companies, as well as the methodology. Keep in mind that not all companies actually complete the survey that makes them eligible to be scored, and that when we say a company is transparent, that means in relation to other fashion companies — the highest scores are still in the 60-70 percent range. Seeing that there are only a handful of companies that score higher than 60 percent on transparency helps us realize how difficult it is to even KNOW whether a retailer or brand is as sustainable as they claim to be. The evaluation is made on how much information the companies reveal — not on how ethical or sustainable they are. If you’re really academic and/or super-committed, it’s worth at least skimming through the standards and methodologies to Fashion Revolution’s scoring. If you only care about the scores, skip on over to page 31 or 32, and rely on those alone.

Good On You / Good On You App: I love this app originating from Australia, and the newsletter they send out to subscribers. It’s one of the better resources for verifying a company’s claims and clarifying what we think we know about fashion or textiles and the environment. Good On You reviews fashion brands and retailers, and scores them based on three values: Environment, Labor and Animals. They also include the date that they last reviewed said brand. It’s Aus-based, so you will find more global, UK and Australian companies there, but there’s a fair number of North American companies, even if you have to search for them or rely on the regular email newsletters for more in-depth articles. I highly recommend this app if you feel firmly committed to changing your material consumption practices (i.e., how you shop).

2. Avoid Greenwashing: Know the Labels

This complements transparency really well, so much so that it’s difficult to decide whether to pair it under that header or give it its own space. I’m going with its own space. “Greenwashing is a tactic companies or corporations use to appear “greener” than they actually are. Instead of spending time and money on improving their business practices to reduce their environmental impact, they spend them on packaging, advertising and marketing to appear sustainable and eco-friendly.”

Greenwashing Resources & Articles

Is your favorite fashion brand greenwashing? Use this checklist to find out: This article confirms the tough process we at TME have been engaged in. I have to admit — it’s not really a checklist, but it does provide guidance on sussing out whether a company is greenwashing or actually taking sustainable steps.

CONSCIOUS FASHION LABELS AND CERTIFICATIONS —  This page by the Conscious Fashion Collective is the best ad-free page. You can also check out the Sustainability Certification Guide by Apparel Entrepreneurship.

What Is Greenwashing? The Beauty Industry Could Be Using This Method To Trick Consumers: OMG You guys…trying to suss out greenwashing in the beauty industry ? ???. Here in the U.S. the FDA doesn’t regulate beauty products, so…a lot is left to trust. I mean, I was in a makeup shop here on Rittenhouse Row, and the guy told me the makeup I was trying was totally clean — and by that he meant vegan and gluten-free (as if I was going to eat it), but it wasn’t natural at all — just full of chemicals; not my idea of clean.

3. Question Questionable Sustainability Claims

Because ALL OF THIS is so new, there’s bound to be a few false starts, a lot of mishaps and a ton of misinformation. Companies try to do something good or portray that they are, but their good is short-lived, mismanaged, disingenuous or even false. A great example comes from this exploration of “carbon-neutral fashion”, where companies buy carbon offsets to become carbon neutral as opposed to creating carbon neutrality within their own supply chain: “Leakage is a third concern. If you paid to protect trees in land plot A, and the landowner took your money to protect those trees but then just cut down trees in adjacent plot B, that would be considered leakage. You didn’t prevent the carbon-sucking trees from being cut down, you just caused the site of the chopping to change. On top of that, there’s the concern of whether or not the offset project has the potential to harm communities that might live nearby.”

Resources & Articles

Fashion Brands Are Claiming to Be Carbon Neutral — But Is It Greenwashing? — Really great article explaining how good intentions can go awry in a nascent, global initiative.

Will the New Fashion Pact Shift The Needle on Sustainability? On the surface, the Fashion Pact is really a great initiative to address the fashion industry’s impact on the environment. But, as noted, it’s not legally binding, and it’s unclear how it will be monitored.

Fashion giants sign UN charter to fight climate change. Will it work? – This refers to yet another fashion pact, signed roughly six months before the most recent one?

Despite Much Fanfare, Nike’s New Move to Zero Sustainability Campaign Falls Short: Again, worth the read to see how easily brands can launch new initiatives while it’s unclear exactly how they will be carried out.

Why A $790 Balenciaga Hoodie Has A World Food Programme Logo: While not bad, it’s good to be wary of short campaigns with big hype. They may simply be a short campaign, and not necessarily a pivot toward change.

4. Reduce Textile Waste

When we talk about fast fashion, we’re referring to a phenomenon that began and has spun vastly out of control since the early 1990s — like when I was in middle school, in middle America, and wasted every Saturday at the mall, spending my allowance at the GAP and flirting with the hot redhead (hi, Aaron!) who worked there. SIGH. It refers to the trend of buying a piece of clothing and wearing it seven times (or less) before throwing it out (that is something I, however, rarely if ever do — I keep my clothes for literal decades). We probably all know one major exception to that is pregnancy and postpartum, and that’s where recycling, swapping and reselling come in. We have GOT to get out of the cycle of seeing clothes as dispensable conveniences. Become more mindful, be more conscientious, slow down our fashion…

4A: Buy Investment Pieces

There are essentially a few major actions to take in order to reduce textile waste. Buying less is obvious. It’s funny…every time we address sustainability here, some reader of our SHOPPING blog makes a half-hearted attempt at shaming TME for being what it is. BUT, we have to point out that Shana and the blog have always made an argument for investment pieces and cost-per-wear. That doesn’t mean that every item we feature is an investment piece (read more about what is and isn’t changing here), but it is a philosophy for shopping. Same with not buying something when it’s on sale if you didn’t want it before the price dropped. And that’s what we’re talking about here. If you read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you know what this means: buying items that spark joy. It means being truly mindful while shopping (or planning to shop). Over the years, I’ve learned that if I pick up a shoe and literally touch it to my face — so weird I know; it’s an observation of an unconscious gesture — I really love that shoe. I might also walk away from a dress or pair of shoes for a bit, that way I know if I continue pining for the item, I really, really want it, and can go back and buy it. For online, put the item in your cart and wait. Sometimes putting an item in your cart is enough to satisfy the compulsion to shop, and if you really love the item, you can go back and buy it.

4B: Take Care Of Your Clothes!

I’m pretty sure it was my girlfriends in college who christened me into hang-drying my clothes…or maybe it was being broke and not wanting to spend all my money at the laundromat. Needless to say, I’ve been washing my clothes on cold and hanging them dry for roughly two decades, and I have two-decade-old clothes to prove it. I do dry sheets and towels, and undies get washed on hot with the towels (Germophobes unite), but hung dry. I’ve reduced the number of washes since I met S — airing out does work for clothing that doesn’t get too smelly in the armpits. And brands like Madewell and Levi’s have been big promoters of rarely (or never) washing your jeans.

And our biggest takeaway is that first and foremost, everything we wear should be enjoyed — accessorized with a joie de vivre and not a fear of getting ruined.”

4C. Rent, Buy Secondhand & Upcycled

Let’s face it, in light of the Konmari phenomenon, there’s plenty of upcycled and donated clothing to be had. Organizations from the Salvation Army in New York City to the most upscale consignment shops in Raleigh, N.C. are so full, it shouldn’t be difficult to find someone else’s trash and make it your own treasure. Listen to the overview on Marketplace here, or the big city challenges here. However, it might make it harder to SELL locally; there are places like ThredUP, The RealReal and Poshmark for that.

4D.  Don’t Throw Your Clothes Away

If selling online is too time-consuming, give, swap and donate. One of the most fun events I’ve done is a clothing swap — make it like a little party. We chose a charity that we’d give all our unwanted items to at the end, and we had fun organizing the clothes, trying them out, and getting a bunch of new-to-us items — I still have some of mine, and that was more than a decade ago. We gave our final donations to Pennies For Change, an organization with a thrift boutique where proceeds benefit female victims of sexual and domestic abuse. You can also use the Give Back Box service to donate goods that can be reworn, or recycle your clothes, which we covered here and here. Give Back Box and retailer recycling is great for items you’d hesitate to swap and/or are too worn out to donate (i.e., “ratty-ass underwear“). Recycling textiles comes down to keeping dyed, tanned and chemical-laden fabrics out of landfills and leeching into the Earth and our waterways.

Reduce Textile Waste: Resources & Articles

If you refer back to Vestiaire Collective’s seven tenets of circular fashion (on-demand and custom-made; green and clean; ethical and fair; high quality and timeless design; repair, redesign and upcycle; rent, swap and lease; or secondhand and vintage), you’ll see at least four of them overlap with the features of investment pieces. (The download link is not obvious, it’s about halfway down the page in a small box). 

Is Ethical Clothing Really Expensive? – A great article from Good On You to consider the true cost of fashion.

How you can help make sustainable fashion more affordable – This Harper’s Bazaar interview with sustainable brand House of Sunny explains how consumer demand can lead to lower prices, similar to what’s happened with organic food.

Bookmark The New York Times Guide: How to Buy Clothes That Are Built to Last. It’s a step-by-step guide to more mindfully purchasing your clothes.

Also, the How To Take Care Of Your Clothes guide. It’s very Marie Kondo (at least, in reference to the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up), so the two make a great minimalist, sustainable philosophy.

Cheap clothes aren’t disposable — An excerpt from Elizabeth Cline’s The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good  illustrating how to make all our clothes last.

The RealReal CEO Julie Wainwright isn’t afraid of growing too fast – Love this Corner Office podcast interview between Maketplace.org’s Kai Ryssdal and The RealReal CEO Julia Wainwright.

Why department stores are getting into the rental business – Exactly what the title says, in reference to Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, and Lord + Taylor

Why REI is embracing “re-commerce” – The titles are so creative, I struggle to summarize ’em.

Urban Outfitters enters the clothing rental business – And again…

How Patagonia, REI And Eileen Fisher Are Using Secondhand Sales To Get More New Customers

Poshmark’s Manish Chandra talks resale at scale A really cool interview with co-founder and CEO of Poshmark, and how he discovered that fashion is social. Definitely worth a listen.

9 Retailers Who Make it Easy & Rewarding to Recycle Your Clothes & Shoes – Our first roundup of ways to get rewarded for donating and recycling your clothes.

Don’t Throw Your Clothes Away! Our Guide To (Not) Trashing Your Textiles – Our most recent update detailing how to recycle, resell or donate your clothes — these things change quickly.

5. Shop Small & Local (But Don’t Leave Us)

First of all, just because you buy something at a brick-and-mortar store in your neighborhood does not automatically make that product earth friendly or eco-friendly. However, when you do support locally owned and/or family-run businesses, you’re providing economic support for your own community — the money goes back into the community in the form of taxes. Furthermore, the cost of transportation and resources for shipping wane. You’ll likely build more relationships, increasing your social capital and the social capital of your neighborhood, town or city. You might also get a deal or multiple deals over time, and it might be easier to get what you really want if the proprietor is willing (and often they are) to make that happen. To clarify, what we’re talking about is small businesses — the mom and pops around you. When it comes to shopping at big box stores and chains, just because they’re nearby this doesn’t necessarily apply — there shopping online might win out in terms of environmental cost — if you’re doing it right (see shipping below). 

Obviously, the best market for vintage and resell is local. Philadelphia has a great consignment and secondhand But don’t just consider the shop you’re popping in, also think about the country where the items are made. The closer to home, the less distance they travelled, the lower the transportation footprint, the better for the environment.

Shop Small & Local: Resources & Articles

Is a “buy local” economy really sustainable? – A good conversation from 2007 about the economics & practicalities of shopping locally.

Buying Locally Made Clothes As a Step Towards Sustainability – A quick ditty that focuses on buying clothes made in your own region or country, if and when that area has high standards.

6. Consider Social Justice

One of the reasons the Green New Deal is so controversial, is that it takes into account the entire production cost of goods in a consumer economy — including the lives of the human beings. Things got all contentious last time I mentioned environmental racism and environmental justice, so I’m leery to go there again…but HEY.  We’re here. Production simply has a human cost. As we mentioned in our introductory post, a fast fashion model inherently relies on paying low wages, high-output (read, likely unsafe labor practices), a lack of transparency (not knowing where or how garments are being produced), and a high-risk of harassment or abuse to the workers  — basically nothing that’s sustainable. There’s also harm to surrounding communities and the domestic harm that occurs when women lack economic power. This is why apps like Good On You and other watchdogs include fair labor and ethics when rating brands and their supply chain. 

This is why we support companies like Voloshin who partner with spacious, female-owned and operated producers, or ABLE, “a lifestyle brand focused on ending generational poverty through providing economic opportunity for women.”

Resources & Articles

The Impact of Fast Fashion on Women in Developing Nations – More great insight from Good On You.

Sustainable Shopping Is Good For The Environment, But It’s Even Better For Workers – “Of the world’s estimated 60-plus million garment and textile workers (the vast majority of whom are young women), only 2% earn a living wage….What’s clear is that fashion is a political and a feminist issue. A truly ethical fashion industry looks beyond creating a few niche sustainable products for Western consumers, and works to keep water and air healthy across the globe, and it empowers its mostly female workers through fair pay and humane working conditions.”

How to convince friends to quit fast fashion for good – Explores the future as it pertains to the lives of the millions of garment workers affected by the fast fashion industry.

7. Grapple With Your Values & Determine What You Can Commit To

There are very few brands or retailers that are going to satisfy the entire do-gooder within us. Sadly, you’d be hard-pressed to find a brand that scores high on transparency, labor, animal rights, environment, inclusiveness and diversity. Get excited because you’ve found an influencer or a designer with all the sustainability props….then get crushed when you see that all her models look like Kate Moss. Jump up and down for a retailer doing all the right things with diversity and plus-size clothing…collapse in a puddle when you discover they score an F on sustainability. There will be trade offs. 

What changes can you realistically make in your life to accommodate sustainable fashion? I mean really. This task is partly identifying your values, partly addressing your budget, partly determining how much time you’re willing to commit, partly what you can cajole your family into committing to, etc., In the Marketplace interview with the Fashionopolis author, Kai Ryssdal audibly cringes when Thomas says instead of “instead of buying 10 pieces for $100, buy one piece $100.” YES BUT, says Kai “have ya met the American consumer?…price is everything.” It kind of goes along with what we’ve been saying all along…cost-per-wear, investment pieces. BUT, if that’s not in your budget, then maybe you’re in the minimalist closet club or striving for vintage, repairing, renting and/or reselling.

Consider the tradeoffs with plastic: plastic, often in the form of polyester, leeches into our waterways via our washing machines (think of all your beautiful, expensive athleisure). Microplastics have been found, not only in the oceans, but also in the air in the Swiss Alps. BUT are you going to suddenly stop wearing and washing all these clothes made with polyester and BUY MORE OTHER clothes made with sustainable materials? Also, while plastic creates an excessive, well-documented amount of waste, some studies show it’s better for the environment than some of the materials that would replace it. Chemicals — you may decry conventional cotton because it’s one of the largest uses of agricultural pesticides, but organic cotton uses more water. So, which is more important to you right now in your efforts? Less pesticides and chemicals in our environment, or reducing the water usage?

Your Values: Resources & Articles

Sustainability, while fashionable, is a challenge for the industry – This one explains the different ways the industry is taking steps toward sustainability, illustrating why not many brands ‘have it all’ and thus, why we have to pick and choose.

Sustainability Is A Tectonic Shift In Fashion, Here Is How Brands Can Adapt – Great article about brands, but also about how consumers can make choices — since there’s no one brand that does ALL the things so far.

10 Things You Can Do to Shop More Sustainably

Adidas Challenges The Fashion Industry In Sustainability, Pledging Only Recycled Plastic By 2024

Plastic Has A Big Carbon Footprint — But That Isn’t The Whole Story

Ethical Taste On A Fast Fashion Budget

8. Refine Your Behavior Re: Shipping

UH – this is a big one. Above, we mentioned that shipping can be more environmentally friendly than driving to chain and big box stores — if you’re doing it right. This is mainly because the products have one less destination. Instead of being shipped to a store, and then you driving to a store to purchase it (supposedly the delivery trucks are more environmentally friendly than your SUV, and your one-less package isn’t going to affect the truck traveling anyway), the product gets shipped straight to you. And as Vox describes in their article, there are three ways to make online shopping more environmental — plan ahead and consolidate orders into fewer shipments, avoid expedited shipping (even when it’s free), and buy less stuff. You’ll probably also have to come up with a really good strategy for dealing with exchanges and returns, too.

Note: I’m not putting Amazon into the category of big box stores — yet. I’ll come back to that one in Toxic AF II.

Shipping: Resources & Articles

10 Things You Can Do to Shop More Sustainably “And don’t feel guilty about ordering items online. First, because a UPS, FedEx, or USPS truck is like public transportation for your clothing: efficient at moving a lot of stuff with minimal fuel. Second, your clothing probably comes through a distribution center, skipping the process of going to the store at all and going straight to you. And according to multiple studies, online shopping has a much lower environmental impact than brick-and-mortar shopping.”

The Environmental Impact of Online Shopping: Essential Answer This Stanford Mag Q&A uses book-buying online as its example, but the variables in terms or shipping are the same.

Online shopping is terrible for the environment. It doesn’t have to be. “Even without drone-equipped electric vans, online shopping would be greener than driving to local stores if we did three simple things: 1) Planned ahead and consolidated our orders so we get everything we need in fewer shipments; 2) Avoided expedited shipping (even if it’s free); 3) Bought less stuff.”

9. Understand The Different Ways To Be Sustainable (In Fashion)

It would be impossible for ALL of us to suddenly master all the ways to approach fashion sustainably tomorrow. There’s a lot to consider: we have clothes made from plastics, clothes made from animals, leathers that are tanned, denim produced with HUGE amounts of water, plastics made from petroleum, 14 million tons of fabric that go to the landfills (in America alone)….When we’re looking at sustainability, we’re examining the materials, the production, the labor, the manufacturing sites — there’s so much to consider, that often a broad overview is a little more useful for getting started than picking apart every single detail. That’s where the resources below come in. You might want to start here, if breadth over depth is your style.

Sustainable Fashion Big Picture: Resources & Articles

Listen to Science Friday (it’s a podcast, so you can listen anytime). As we’ll touch on in Toxic AF II, Science Friday launched a Degrees of Change spotlight in April, to explore how we’re all being impacted by and adapting to the climate crisis. On the day of the Climate Strike last month, they Science Friday addressed how the fashion industry is rebranding itself. I can’t recommend it enough.

Get familiar with Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes by Dana Thomas. We know that time to read is, ummmm….scarce. So if you don’t time to read the actual book, listen to this episode of Marketplace (there’s an excerpt of the book on the landing page), read this book review from NPR. Stats like the average garment is worn seven times in the U.S. (three times in China), help us recognize exactly what fast fashion is and exactly why it’s detrimental to life on planet Earth. Thomas, even in the interviews, highlights solutions on the horizon and argues for putting the integrity back into our shopping, buy things we care about (investment pieces), and not just consume for the sake of consuming. YES.

Read The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good: Often referred to as the Michael Pollan of Fashion (ironically, it’s been said that we can’t reduce sustainable fashion steps into Pollan-like commandments as in Food Rules) Elizabeth Cline recently published her second book educating the masses on sustainable shopping. Her first, Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, was published in 2013. You can listen to Elizabeth Cline’s interview from the Brian Lehrer Show last month, a few days before the Climate Strike. Read the interview between Cline and Bustle, here.

How Fashion Brands Can Create A More Sustainable End-to-end Retail Economy  – A pretty good overview of how fast fashion must and is change.

How Sustainability In Fashion Went From The Margins To The Mainstream – A solid overview from Ad Age detailing the shift you’re now seeing in the fashion industry.

Look and feel good: How tech could save the fashion industry – Awesome insight into what to look forward to in regards to sustainability in fashion.

What Is The ‘Slow Fashion’ Movement Everyone’s Hashtagging On Instagram? Parade magazine’s mainstream explanation of Slow Fashion and how it differs from “eco-fashion”.

We’re so grateful you’re on this journey with us — it’s a long one, but well worth it. Your comments to our sustainability push have been so inspiring! Keep sharing — our collective knowledge is power.


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Lex is our resident nerd, watchful editor & Chief Innovation Officer. Voted most likely to win BIG on Jeopardy!, she keeps us ahead of the curve, whether in mapping out strategy that has us dropping content at the moment you’re Googling for it, or branching us out into new channels/ media & letting us know what trends are giving. If you sit in on any meeting, you’ll often hear the phrase, “Ok, so Lex was right…” With her own personal style (boots, dresses, scarves), she doesn’t consider herself a fashionista, but she is keeping us #well #sustainable #empathetic #inclusive #current #DownToEarth & #OpenMinded; her wisdom ranges from yoga home practice & Feng Shui-ing an apartment, to living overseas & crushing analytics.

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  1. Thanks for this post and your others. The whole range of voices and topics, and lightness and heaviness is a big part of what keeps me coming back here.

    And somehow I missed the response to your environmental justice post, maybe because I don’t always read comments? But that post was spot on and the blowback was unjustified and coming from some pretty dark places. I just want to belatedly say that I appreciate you.

  2. This is an amazing amount of information. Thank you! For the past few years, I have been using Rent the Runway for weddings and events and I love it. It’s way more affordable and practical for me. I’ve also been using Poshmark for awhile now. I’ve been trying to curb my buying habits lately and I hate just giving away clothes and getting rid of them, so I tried Poshmark as a way to recoup some of the money that I’ve spent. It’s super easy to use and I feel a little better about all of the money that I’ve spent on clothes. I would love to know about other readers’ Poshmark accounts and check them out, too. As always, another well-researched, thought provoking article. Thank you!

    • Thanks, Elizabeth! That’s a good idea to get a collection of TME readers’ Poshmark accounts together…we will marinate on that one! Hope to see you soon! xo, Lex

  3. This was so much info it must have been so much work to seek out. Definitely a bookmark and refer back post. Thank you for taking the time to collect it all and really respond to how TME fits into the picture of sustainability and tons of resources for all of us to find ways to do better with the environmental effect of our style choices. Much appreciated!

  4. Thanks for this article, but as a science teacher I wish people would PLEASE use the word “chemical” correctly. https://www.thoughtco.com/is-everything-a-chemical-604194
    Sorry for the negative comment, but marketing companies are really good a scaring customers into buying more by using the word “chemical.” An uneducated society is easy to manipulate. “Chemicals” aren’t always bad, and like you said in your article, alternatives to plastic aren’t always better.
    Thank you.

    • You’re so right, Holly! I forget to differentiate between organic compounds, synthetic chemicals, toxins, etc., It’s been a long time since I hung out with science teachers or was married to one, so I’m not as often reminded. I’ll be sure to clarify in the future. xo, Lex

  5. Deeply grateful for this clear, thorough, nuanced, brave piece, and for TME’s commitment to sustainability. Long time reader (with the Julian backpacks to prove it) but commenting for the first time to say THANK YOU. And to agree with Lindsay’s comment about the response to the environmental justice piece.

    • Thank you, Kyoko! That’s so wonderful to hear — I rarely get a first-time commenter comment, so thank you for speaking up. xo, Lex

  6. Thank you so much. I hadn’t known about Yerdle’s work with Patagonia, REI, and others — what a great resource for saving money AND reducing consumption, especially on winter clothes for my California child.

  7. This is a great post, and I appreciate your nuanced analysis of the ethical tradeoffs.

    I am guilty of falling for fast fashion, but two areas where I’ve done pretty well using minimalist approach and secondhand stuff are maternity and children’s clothes. I consider these low hanging fruit. Maternity wise, you can be very minimalist about what you need to buy and rely mainly on stuff you already own. Also, goodwill or similar shops are a wonderful resource for nice maternity stuff that is in great condition. One of the first pieces of advice I give pregnant friends is to check goodwill before they spend a dime on maternity clothes. For both maternity and kid clothes, I liberally loan/borrow among friends/family. I have some maternity pants that have been through 3 wearers so far, and both of my kids are regularly the recipients and donors of used clothes.

    Now if I could only do as well with my own non-maternity wardrobe…

    • Thank you, Kristen! There’s so much to consider. I TOTALLY agree that maternity stuff is low-hanging fruit for thrifting & gifting. xo, Lex

  8. Thank you for all the links and research you’ve compiled! That must have taken a lot of work.

    I’ve always loved a good thrift shop, but in the past 5-ish years, I’ve really been focused on buying everything I can secondhand. That means nearly 100% of my kids’ clothes, and about 60-75% of my own (socks and underwear I buy new, of course, and recycle at H&M when they’re worn out). Online secondhand markets like Poshmark make it easy to find specific items I’m seeking (brand-name leather shoes, for example), but the high shipping cost means that I don’t want to buy basics like, say, a black cotton v-neck sweater, there. The best plan for that is just to visit my local Value Village/Unique Thrift locations as often as I can–usually about once a month. I keep a very specific list in my phone of what I need or want and whenever I have the chance, I stop by and see what I can find. I often find awesome happy surprises, like a like-new blouse from Anthroplogie for $6.

    It helps, of course, that I think thrifting is enjoyable, but it also makes me feel good about my clothes. And the $$ saved is fantastic, of course. I’ve been reading The Mom Edit since the Ain’t No Mom Jeans days and I can’t say I’ve ever purchased anything directly from a link on the blog–but I LOVE it for ideas and inspiration and will always read for those reasons.

    • Thanks, Laura! This is great information! I love that you’re a longtime reader who appreciates the ideas & inspo. You GET IT! xo, Lex

  9. As always, blown away with your posts. I am a life long thrifter- started with men’s clothes in the 70’s! I just “gifted” my 17 yr daughter with my 32 yr old cashmere sweater. My 14 yr old son called dibs on my Gucci backpack that I bought in Italy 1985. I have never had a huge amount of clothes (or money) but I have a good eye for basics and take care of what I have. They will have to duke it out for my Sex Pistols signed Dr. Marten’s when I kick it! (circa1978)

  10. I come to sites like The Mom Edit for style inspiration & buy secondhand look-alikes! Since fashion is cyclical, this is pretty easy. I believe in quality over quantity too, but love to have fun with fashion on a limited budget. I take very good care of all my clothing regardless of quality & try to find pieces that are well made. I used to frequent brick & mortar resale or discount stores before having kids, but now I use Poshmark for specifics & Thredup for basics quite a bit for myself and I go to childrens clothing swap stores for my kids. There is very little we buy new. I have always loved the fun surprises & forced creativity in trying to be stylish & have fun with fashion on a budget. We frequently swap, sell, pass on, and recycle or upcycle. Thanks!

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