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9 Brands to Buy If You Want to Make the World a Better Place

Paula Watts Photography ©

New York and many cosmopolitan cities are abuzz with the talk and walks of fashion, it’s getting thousands of people ready to toss their old clothes for anything a la mode. Today, what’s in style is often quick, easy, and disposable.

The high turnover for new merchandise has created a culture of fast fashion — where clothes are tossed into landfills and high amounts of energy are needed to repurpose an old shirt into something new.

This cycle of environmentally destruction as a byproduct of fashion is by no means the only option out there. There are many brands that are ethical, eco-friendly, and create sustainable incomes for people who would otherwise be at risk for some of the worst and most dangerous jobs in the world.

Read More: Does Recycling Your Clothes Actually Make a Difference?

Sustainable brands are often overshadowed by large name brands that are able to offer a disposable dress for the person-on-the-go for $15 or less.

Yet sustainable brands are so worth the investment. For those who want to send the world a message about what you stand for, making sustainable fashion choices is one of the most beautiful ways to do that.

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Here are 9 side-by-side comparisons of alternative options to some fast fashion items. See if you can guess which is the eco-friendly option, and you may fall in love with some new trends, too.


Sweaters

Can’t believe it’s fall already and need something warm ASAP? If you’re going to make a purchase, there are still sustainable options which can help cut down on the 10% of global carbon emissions the apparel industry is responsible for.

A photo posted by ZARA Official (@zara) on

Chinti & Parker (pictured on the bottom) produce their clothing in carefully selected factories and actively offset their carbon emissions through the Carbon Neutral Company guidelines. Even down to the packaging, everything is made from organic cotton, bamboo and even seaweed. No polyester, which can take 200 years to decompose, here.

Sunglasses

Companies can quickly imprint logos on plastic sunglasses, changing up style or color while adding to the endless stream of unnecessary products. Other brands may charge more, but their shades will last longer than a beach volleyball game. One new trend in eyewear is frames made out of wood. If you’re into this look, check out frames made from bamboo — since it grows at a rate of 3 feet in 24 hours, it’s far more sustainable.

A photo posted by H&M (@hm) on

Panda Sunglasses (pictured below) are custom made for your face shape, all from sustainable Moso bamboo. Bonus, you still get that UVA protection. Bigger bonus, they partner with Pencils of Promise to bring education to the 250 millions kids lacking basic education levels of reading, writing and math. Learn more here.

Wedding Dresses

The average bride in the US spends about $1,281 on a wedding dress, according to research from the Knot. That’s over a grand on a piece of fabric you’ll be wearing for less than one day, unless you’re this bride. Even if you continue to wear a wedding dress once a year instead of just once, there are brands out there which use completely recycled materials or cut fabric leaving no leftover scraps. Can you guess which is made from recycled materials in the images below?

The top image is a wedding from Minna — an “eco luxe” brand. Minna creates wedding dresses, veils, and bridesmaid dresses made from sustainable, organic, recycled and locally produced textiles. In the image above the dress is made from 100% recycled silk materials.

Sneakers

The majority of running shoes are made from rubber. This global resource was previously sourced from rainforests in the Amazonian regions of Latin America, built on horrendous abuses in the 18th century. Since then, governments like Peru and Colombia have publicly apologized for the atrocities against indigenous peoples that occurred during the first rubber booms. Natural rubber production has now shifted to Southeast Asia, where farmers often struggle to make ends meet to compete with the synthetic rubber made from oil.

A photo posted by Keds (@keds) on

The Amazon remains the only place in the world where rubber grows naturally, and Veja makes shoes sourced from 60 families who own land with wild rubber. They only take orders six months in advance so as not to overwhelm production. Veja co-founder Bia Saldanha also works within the rubber industry to create a fair price for rubber, and preserve valuable rainforest.

Sweatpants

Walmart’s best selling product may be the banana, but you can bet the retail giant still sells a lot of t-shirts and sweatpants. And for the textile industry to dye clothes in bright, eye-catching, neon prints it takes a lot of water and chemicals. Textile plants in China and India can destroy rivers with dye and drain local water supplies. Investing in small-scale production that uses less water to dye clothing is a great start to reducing environmental damage in these regions.

A photo posted by SUDARA (@sudaragoods) on

Punjammies made by Sudara are all around making the world a better place. These pajamas are made by women in India who have escaped human trafficking, so slipping into a set isn’t just cozy, it’s compassionate. In 2005, Shannon Keith ventured to India for a trip that opened her eyes to the horrendous ways young girls and women were being sold into sex slavery. The knowledge prompted her launch of Sudara a brand helping women evade trafficking and sex slavery.

Jewelry & Bling

Sure, buying 20 pairs of earrings for $5 might seem the most economical way to keep your jewelry box up to day. But invest in sustainable jewelry or brands working to keep women out of sex slavery, and you’ll definitely get you more for your money. There are many talented artisans out there working to make both beautiful jewelry and reduce some of the 20-30 million modern day slaves in the world today.

A photo posted by 31bits (@31bits) on

31 Bits was started by care-free college kids turned remarkable entrepreneurs. The designers of 31 Bits  create gorgeous jewelry line while giving displaced women in Northern Uganda an opportunity to combat poverty. This socially conscious jewelry company encourages consumers to think about where the money they spend will ultimately land. Also check out Alex & Ani for eco-conscious jewelry, their newest line features repurposed copper from the restoration of the Statute of Liberty, and it's helping brighten the world. #CarryLight

Leather boots

Buying a leather product still comes with its own set of ethical questions, however there are leather products which are more sustainable than others. Environmentally, it’s better to invest in a pair of shoes that can last decades compared to boots or shoes that only last a year or two.

A photo posted by Steve Madden (@stevemadden) on

A photo posted by Teysha (@teysha_is) on

Teysha uses ethically sourced Guatemalan textiles and leather for handmade shoes. These custom-made shoes include original textiles, handcrafted on looms in sustainable factories helping to empower artisans in a country where 59.3 percent of the rural community lives in poverty. See how they’re made step-by-step here.

Sandals

Have you ever noticed how many pairs of rubber sandals hang in WalMart and Target across the US? As summer comes to an end, it’s time to learn that there are better options out to buy out there. Like sandals that send girls to school. Can you tell which chic shoe will brighten a girl’s future?

A photo posted by Teva (@teva) on

Sseko Sandals With a slogan like, “Wear Sseko. Send a girl to college,” it feels difficult not to impulse buy! Each pair of these shoes are ethically handmade in East Africa, and their strappy leather designs are just as fabulous as their cause.

Basic Cotton Tee

A plain cotton tee can go a long way in your wardrobe. To make one cotton tee and pair of jeans, it takes about 20,000 liters of water according to WWF. On top of that, 73% of global cotton production takes place on unregulated land.

A photo posted by Gap (@gap) on

A photo posted by People Tree (@peopletreeuk) on

People Tree makes a super comfy basic tee with 100% FairTrade cotton, and works to help organic cotton farmers earn 30% more. People Tree has created sustainable fashion for celebs like Emma Watson. With garments made with organic cotton and sustainable materials, using traditional skills that support rural communities, People Tree is a brand worth investing in.

Read More: Emma Watson Wore a Dress Made of Plastic Bottles to the Met Gala