Wearing stylish and sustainable clothing is a great way to not only look good but also feel positive about your impact on the planet. It can be tough to know where to start, though, with vague marketing messages, tons of options, and a lot of companies jumping on the ‘conscious’ bandwagon.
The journey to where I am now took me over three years and a ton of costly mistakes, and I’m still learning every day too. So here are some tips I learned the hard way for wearing conscious style, both with new and used clothing:
Building a conscious wardrobe is a journey, but remember, the most conscious thing you can do is wear what you have. When you do need to buy, you can build a wardrobe that looks great and does good for the planet. Remember, every little bit counts when it comes to making a positive impact on the world around us.
I started with a clothing audit in 2020, bought conscious clothing in 2021, and bought close to no clothing in 2022 while massively donating and Poshing.
Now, I’m developing a minimalist style I love that’s all my own.
My mom went to fashion design school and designs Wearable Art. Growing up, I was surrounded by pattern books and fashion magazines. I got to feel the textures and see the array of colors and patterns at fabric and craft shops. I learned hand stitching and machine sewing, which has come in so handy over the years for alterations and embellishments.
Fashion is a passion of mine, and thanks to my mom (and dad) I am comfortable with bold choices. I love beauty and elegance, comfort and flowiness in clothes. As a form of self-expression, fashion is virtually limitless.
Analyzing a microcosm of my wardrobe, in 2020 I took a look at how what I wore fit my socially conscious goals. The analysis was a major learning experience, taking into account the Buyerarchy of Needs in addition to what the clothes were made out of, who made them and how, if they were made to last, and how to dispose of them.
This was eye-opening for many reasons. Foremost, I owned a lot of nice pieces that I didn’t wear very often because in my mind I needed an excuse or occasion. 2020, as we all know, was the epitome of not having an excuse or occasion! Without an office, restaurant, party, or event, it was easy to wear a T-shirt and sweats every day while ‘saving’ nearly everything nice.
Second, it wasn’t just that I was saving up everything nice. I was buying cheap things to not get anything nice dirty or damaged. I packed, and wore, mostly clothes I could lose or damage without caring.
Basically, I was buying and wearing things I didn’t care about so that I could treat things irresponsibly and dispose of them. The opposite of being socially conscious!
What that also meant was that I wasn’t always dressing in clothes I loved or that I really felt were the best expression of myself. The look was chaotic and didn’t reflect any particular taste, nor did it feel purposeful or meaningful. My look was the epitome of fast fashion, the plague of all millennials: Quantity over quality.
After releasing that video, in which I admitted to buying extremely cheap pants from ‘questionable Chinese companies’ among other things, I knew it was time to make a change. My quest for cheap ‘stuff’ was so unconscious that I felt scammed by how easily I was taken in. When I realized what happened, I actually wrote an article for Medium about it.
By 2021, it was time to move forward. Mid-year after getting the vaccine, boutiques, and malls were open again, and I was in the market. First order of business, stylish and comfortable sweat clothes from Aviator Nation. More upcycled fair trade silk pieces from Indie Ella Clothing (designed by my friend Jayna Lamb). Massive thrifting, swapping, and giving/ receiving gifts also ensued.
Soon I had a reputation for my unique and interesting style, in my co-living home as well as in the coworking space I joined.
Accumulating clothing, whether consciously made clothing or not, soon became a problem for my closet. I wasn’t paying heed to the basic tenet of wearing conscious: Wear What You Have. I knew I had a massive issue: I needed to pivot, reassess my tastes and priorities, and most importantly, purge my closet of everything I was carrying around that wasn’t sparking joy.
Buying nothing for all of 2022? Great. In tandem with repurposing, upcycling, gifting, selling, donating, and (at last resort) throwing away? A recipe for a wardrobe that would fully reflect my own personality, interests, and tastes.
Turns out my tastes accommodate both beauty and art in fashion as well as the socially conscious aspect.
Near the end of 2022, I realized I had accomplished something. I was loving my style and wanted to share the joy I’d newly discovered in my wardrobe. That’s when I started my new Instagram just for socially conscious fashion: Wearing Conscious.
This year, it’s one-in-one-out. That means selling/ donating/ swapping/ gifting everything I can, and only replacing an item if there is a specific need.
It also means getting even tighter with what I own, if I don’t love it, wear it, feel fabulous and look stellar in a piece… It’s time to find it a new home. So far I’ve sold several pieces that were difficult to part with at first for emotional reasons, but once they were in the mail with a sincere note of best wishes to the recipient, I knew I made the right decision.
I’m having fun making a business/ hobby out of selling clothes, shoes, and accessories, as well as showcasing my own taste as it evolves. It’s a great journey and I’m happy to blog about it!
Even a cursory read of the reviews of Bambooi Beauty & Care on Trustpilot reveals a cadre of eager environmentally-conscious buyers who feel duped. By the time I added my review, it was a familiar story: Excited by the product and the company, anxious about the extended shipment delays, and then left disappointed with the product’s performance.
The Shop app recommended I might like it: An electric toothbrush made of compostable, biodegradable sugarcane and plastic-free. The price, even in USD, seemed very reasonable, with brush heads costing far less than what I would pay for the brush I was currently using.
The Shop app knew me: Within a few days, I purchased the brush. Due to shipping costs from U.K. to U.S. and the potential time it would take, I decided to buy 15 packs of additional brush heads. The entire order ended up being like $75 USD.
Inexpensive, environmentally friendly, a sophisticated eco-look. I was sold! I ordered in early October 2021, expecting the brush to arrive by Jan/Feb 2022.
By March/ April, I was getting ready to move states for the summer and anxious about not having received the brush. Messages to the customer service department went unanswered. Through the Shop app, I changed my delivery address in hopes it would make a difference. I received an email in April confirming my order.
June 15, 2022 I received a message that my order had shipped. Miraculously, I received it at my summer address!
The brush had the look of colored plastic rather than natural sugarcane or earthy-type material. Still, it was lightweight and portable. Initially, it went weeks without needing charging. After about 3 months of use 2x daily (husband opted to stay with the original brush), it started needing to be charged every week. I noticed it actually went weak and then went off more often.
The brush finally died in December 2022, about 5 months after I received it. The metal that held the brush heads prolapsed into the handle, so I can no longer add a brush head to it. This revelation came after I charged the brush overnight, since charging for a few hours didn’t allow me to use it.
Now I’m back to Sonicare, which I got at Walmart ages ago (don’t @ me I know!) and it still works perfectly.
In Bad Influence Medium late-2020, I wrote about some scams I’d encountered in my life. Since then, I spend a lot of time on the Reddit r/scams community, keeping up-to-date on scams and helping where I can to prevent the devistation scammers cause.
Based on my knowledge and experience, I believe Bambooi was NOT a scam.
Bambooi appears to have been a geniune British startup company with poor leadership and overly-ambitious goals. Startups can and do often fail, but much of that typically falls on banks, financial institutions, and other investment companies. This seems to be more of a “Kickstarter without the middleman” scheme: Consumers pre-purchase the products based on marketing of a prototype in order to fund manufacturing and delivery of the final products. You as the consumer are the investor, taking the risk of funding something that may never materialize. Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns, however, are up-front that you are investing in the company and may get a gift in return, but it’s not guaranteed. You risk time and money for the promise of getting the product first, at a lower cost than the public, or with other exclusive perks.
I’ve successfully funded Lomi, Tidy Brush, and other projects through Kickstarter/ Indiegogo. I also invested in a project last summer that seems super cool but is continually delayed, and I’m concerned may never materialize.
If anything, I believe Bambooi was unintentionally deceptive about where they were in their manufacturing and production process.
Just like many people, I succumbed to the excitement of an eco-friendly, more socially conscious electric toothbrush option. But I overlooked the fact that the most socially conscious option was right in front of me: Use what you have.
I had and still have a perfectly good toothbrush. I bought it to use until it fully died. Certainly it did not die, and I’m happy to still have it. Buy for life, use for life.
The second part is, if there is a startup or pre-order situation, and it’s a solution you can wait for potentially forever, then you have to understand you actually may never receive what you’ve invested in.
Back in 2019, Lewis James Bryden, a 21-year-old Brit, started his first company, Bryden Group Limited. The company’s purpose: “Retail of furniture, lighting, and similar (not musical instruments or scores) in specialised store.” By 2020, the company’s name was legally changed to Bambooi Sustainable Enterprises, Ltd. (For American readers, it’s a U.K. version of an LLC.)
In Bryden’s own words, he wanted to become a millionaire and eventually billionaire selling sustainable products. Great for ambition, and great for wanting to own a sustainable product-based company, but it’s clear Mr. Bryden’s skillset wasn’t up to the task he set forth. A business manager would have been able to help, as far as funding, managing expectations, marketing, etc.
The company unfortunately appears to have undergone voluntary liquidation, surrounded by a chorus of angry consumers. No doubt business schools in U.K. could easily use this as a case study in business failure.
Of course not all businesses succeed, or at least they are often not profitable for a few years. Bambooi tried out the gate to make a huge impact, putting a lot into marketing and publicity to get pre-orders and then expecting to have steady sales thereafter. Tempering initial expectations with a “fund more sustainable alternatives by buying the prototype” message would have helped– or even a good old-fashioned Kickstarter campaign. People aren’t happy to not receive a reward for funding a Kickstarter, nor are they happy with sub-par quality, but they understand the risk.
The second big issue is that it seems they did no quality assurance testing, a big gaffe for an allegedly market-ready product.
In February 2019, I published a video on YouTube reviewing the November 2018 Birchbox. That review focused on how conscientious the beauty products themselves were:
Considerations like packaging were noted, but not assessed.
For the April 2021 edition, I planned to review Birchbox again using this criteria, as the scope of the boxes appeared to have grown considerably. Plus, I planned to go into more depth with the packaging analysis this time.
But also, I admit now, I fell into the intense marketing for Birchbox, and the excitement of a surprise gift box got to me. Plus they threw in a bonus box for free! So why not justify it with a review?
As I recorded my thoughts on the 2021 Birchboxes, a pattern began to emerge:
Would I buy this product again? Well, I won’t need to, because Birchbox is just going to send me more next month.
Will I even use all of this before the next box? Probably not, because I either didn’t really need that solution or already had a product for that issue in my cabinet.
I sat on the videos for a year, pondering how to meaningfully assess the socially conscious nature of Birchbox as a whole, not just the products in it. It came down to the Buyerarchy of Needs.
While the products themselves may have been made with ethics and environment in mind, when looked at in the macro sense, buying most of these things was at the top of the Buyerarchy pyramid, especially when I had so much already that could be used. A year later, I knew the real message: Birchbox is not socially conscious if it is selling you things you do not need.
Here is what became of the products reviewed in the original YouTube video:
The emerging pattern here? One product out of 16 – the Stasher bag – was something I would have purchased otherwise and didn’t already have a solution for at home. (Interestingly, that is also the only non-Beauty product.) All the rest, not needed, and not all of it I even liked.
Instead of subscribing to a box where you truly need only one thing at most from it, save the environment and your money by buying just that one item! If you have absolutely no moisturizer left, find a socially conscious solution in your price range. Try some from a friend, read reviews, or get a smaller size if you want to try something new.
Think it through with boxes like Alltrue (formerly Causebox), too. When I looked at everything it offered in the box, including customizations, it seems like an incredible deal. And it’s all socially conscious, too! Good think I decided to wait for the spoilers, because in reality there is nothing in the box I need. Not one thing. Not a new purse (I sold or gave away dozens), not a water bottle (I have 3), not a blanket (we have them all over the house). Nothing.
In a culture that’s constantly screaming at you to BUY CONSUME BUY CONSUME, take control of your own life and destiny by tuning that all out. It’s a journey, but I’m finding it’s totally worth it.
What work will I do on myself this year toward becoming a more #sociallyconscious citizen? I’ve given it some thought. Watch the Insta reel and read on for more detail.
Not every single day, but my goal is a monthly average of 10,000 steps per day.
Why? This is probably just hype, but the number is touted as having some sort of magical benefits, although that has been widely found to be a marketing myth. I don’t think it will really help me suddenly start dropping body fat, any more than the 30-60 daily minutes of HIIT, cycling, yoga, weights, etc., I already benefit from without increasing step count.
The real reason is just that it’s a challenge. Last year I wanted to reach 10k but only reached 8,947. But I came up from like 3,500 in 2017! And I definitely feel fitter and happier by far than I did in 2017.
Challenging yourself to better health means putting your best self forward.
Can I go all month alcohol-free? I’d like to.
A reboot and reset, that’s important to gather perspective. Drinking a lot during the holiday season is socially acceptable and expected in many ways.
No, I don’t have an alcohol problem. Not wanting to drink for a period of time or even on a specific day or occasion, shouldn’t be stigmatized.
As I write this, I am already mostly through the month, but I’ll save that for another post.
This year, I need to get a handle on my closet. Seriously, I have too many clothes, and they’re not all sparking joy. I keep moving them from home to home, wading through clothes I don’t wear and wearing clothes I don’t like as much to justify them in my closet. It’s insanity!
Backstory: After 2020 and my clothing audit (watch on YouTube here), I spent 2021 buying socially conscious clothing like no one’s business. My wardrobe finally reflects who I am… But now there’s just a lot of clothes in my life. Is it really conscientious if I’m still buying so much stuff?
So I got to thinking: I don’t really need anything. So I’m going to go a whole year without buying anything new, starting 1/1/22.
Piggy-backing off of Goal 3, I need to actively get rid of things. There’s a lot that I can donate, but it’s also easier to stomach re-homing my things if I know they are going to someone who wants and is excited about them! Plus I know where they are going, which is not always the case with donations. I’m also going to continue with Freecycle and Buy Nothing groups.
As with clothing, I seem to have spent too much time in 2021 accumulating socially conscious beauty products, without using what I have.
That’s ignoring the entire Buyerarchy of Needs! I have too much stuff, and it would do me good to use what I have, and I think I have enough to last through 2023 without having to buy anything new (except sunscreen).
As noted below, I challenged myself to meditate daily over the holidays, and it was illuminating! Even one minute a day was enough to calm my anxiety, and relax enough to allow other solutions to enter my mind instead of focusing on problems. I get very excited about challenges, but sometimes overwhelmed, and meditating definitely has helped me grow beyond by removing that sense of frustration and tension.
During the “shelter in place” time in 2020, I spent a lot of time walking, running, and riding my bicycle. I moved my body a lot, but not necessarily always a formal “workout”.
Then in 2021 my mom got me an Apple Watch, and it changed my life. I worked out more than I had in years and got into the best shape I’ve been for a long time. And I’m only getting started! Aiming for exercise every day is the logical next step. Not necessarily a workout per se, it could just be a walk with my dog, but at least 30 minutes of exercise daily is what I’m aiming for.
Since COVID restrictions were lifted, Summer has been wild. Certainly, I am grateful for all the friends and family who chose to spend their vacations with us! Plus the opportunity last month to visit Portland again was an amazing gift.
Calling this out by name because I’m glad to be here!
It’s a coworking space with a really friendly vibe. Something I’ve needed since I moved to LA only four months before COVID and knew/ was in touch with only scant few people. Finally a social life outside my house!
And, oh yeah, also a great place to work. Peaceful, focused environment, super smart people working there but also a sense of community.
I enjoy the routine of getting “work ready”, riding my bicycle over while I think about my schedule and tasks for the day. Then I arrive, start work, throw on exercise clothes for a lunchtime run or HIIT sesh, and maybe take a late afternoon stroll around the block, then leave work at or nearly on time and bicycle home thinking about what we want to do for the evening.
I know there are so many like me out there that just keep working when working from home, without a boundary. Seriously, it is probably a reaction to our collective trauma, to throw ourselves into work to feel like we still have a meaningful purpose in our lives; to feel a sense of control over our destinies. That said, I am definitely lacking any semblance of balance on a day-to-day basis, as evidenced by how much fun it was to have visitors.
The first full month of Summer was busy and relaxing, with many twists and turns. So many gratitudes this month.
Yes, I am getting married! On the 2-year “Adoptversary” of our puppy, Pupperz Buddha, my boyfriend brought me to Malibu Lagoon for a picnic. It was absolutely beautiful, with surfers and pink sky. I remember even thinking it was incredibly romantic for a doggy celebration.
He suggested we play in the water and I agreed and then he said he just wanted to get a snack from the cooler first. As he was down there, he got on one knee and popped the question with a gorgeous ring, and we were hugging and dancing after when our housemates came running up with champagne! What an amazing moment I am so grateful for and so happy. My now-fiancé and I have been through so much and had so many great adventures together. Obviously, I am very excited.
Yes, I’m now a full-time employee at a mid-size company. Many years of running my own company and working on contract were exciting but finally, I decided to opt for some stability in my life. After 2020, it just feels right. I’m happy and grateful to have found a company where I can do some good and have a team to work with every day, while still being remote and having flexibility.
Within this gratitude, I want to also thank the other jobs I’ve had since moving to L.A. While it’s been a tough time for me and everyone, I worked hard and met a lot of great people, and got a chance to show that I’m indeed ready for the next level. In many ways, that’s the big hold-up: not getting a foot in the door to prove what you’re capable of and gain knowledge to take you to new levels.
Yes, in addition to the new job, I got myself a new office space to feel like I’m going somewhere to work. It’s also to make friends and have an office social life. Sure, it’s one mile away, but I actually wake up early and ride my bicycle over (or walk, or scooter) in California business casual every morning. Having a set workspace that’s just… not my house… is so great.
Escaping the crowds and fireworks was so peaceful this 4th of July. The dogs appreciated it too! Being outside during the pandemic has sort of reset my priorities to doing more outdoor activities. Maybe it was because I was working too much or maybe I just felt I had other priorities, but I didn’t do enough outdoors activities when I was living in Portland in the past 8 years. Time to reset.
Visiting my home state and seeing friends and family after 1.5 years (and some friends I hadn’t seen in 2.5 years!) was an absolute treasure this month. Especially my writers’ group, my childhood friends, the Girls, my running team, my mom, and my mama-to-be sister! I guess that’s basically everyone.
I’m also glad to see things bouncing back. Portland especially got a lot of negative media attention and the situation there seemed dire, with so many places closing, an exploding homeless problem, and high levels of unrest. But things looked like they were actually going quite well, with a lot of restaurants bouncing back as food carts and just as many funky little shops and quirky events as ever. And, if I may say, everyone (vaccinated) was excited to participate!